Joseph Epstein is one of America’s foremost social and literary critics. The rare breed of thinker who draws lessons from the intersection where technology and literature collide. In his article “The Literary Life” at 23 Epstein writes:
“A good heart remains the first requisite for a great novelist. *** So many young novelists appear to be up against the same problem, settling for composing books that go in for verbal feats and imaginative flights over gripping moral dramas: I have in mind the novels of Michael Chabon, David Foster Wallace, Gary Shtayngart, Jeffrey Eugenides, among others. Belief goes to the heart of the problem: if you don’t know what you believe in, you cannot construct moral dramas, which leaves you with making jokes through elaborate literary constructs to make the sham point about reality not quite existing, or that life is really no more than a dream, sha-boom, sha-boom.”
Epstein also expands upon Cynthia Ozick’s The Din in the Head. The idea is that the new technology, the Internet, iphones, ipods, email created spaces filled by crowds. Novels – both reading and writing – need a space of silence and solitude. The world of words flourishes only outside of the crowd, with it’s noise, intellectual clutter and the staggeringly ever present machines streaming messages of distraction.