As far as contemporary fiction writers go, Tom Perrotta is extremely famous. He’s written several bestselling novels, more than one of which (Election, Little Children) have been made into popular and critically-acclaimed Hollywood movies. Given his considerable success, you might imagine that Perrotta would probably have a cheery take on the role played by books in contemporary culture.
But, not so: in a Big Think video, he espouses a decidedly pessimistic view on the cultural future of fiction. A generation from now, Perrotta predicts, the fanbase for fiction might closely resemble today’s audience for poetry—a tiny subculture with very few members who aren’t practitioners themselves. To back up his argument, Perrotta points to the heavy cultural weight thrown around by some poets in the sixties, and notes that no poet today has been able to capture the same kind of popular attention. He also talks intelligently about the recent Horace Engdahl kerfuffle (in which a Nobel judge trashed the insularity of American literary audiences).
Although it makes me sad to say it, I think Perrotta’s probably right. I also appreciate the matter-of-fact tone he brings to this video: he’s not offering an anguished lamentation over the fate of the book so much as giving a clear-eyed view of matters as they stand. Anyway, you can watch the video here.