I just finished reading what I think is a great book by Dave Eggers, which has been praised by some and denounced by others.
Basically, The Circle is about how things could be, taking a fictional leap from how things are right now: which is that we're driving as fast as a cheetah down the internet highway toward a society where public and private information is stored, managed, and manipulated to the nth degree by only one revered, private, cultish, and so awesome it's messed up (imagine Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and every tech-startup combined, injected with steroids, multiplied by 1000), technological dictatorship.
Anyway, you should read the book, because it scared the pants off me (in a good way) and was quite enjoyable.
Anyway, what I really want to talk about is this....
One of the reviews of this book cited a recent article written by Tim Carmody, who postures that "The gap today is really between people who still want to assign literary novelists that role of being central to cultural discourse and people for whom only nonfiction will do the job." Essentially, as I understand it, Carmody casually presents the notion that it is now the job of the nonfiction writer to do what the novelist used to do: tell us about the world.
What worries me about this sort of attitude that it represents a gradual slide in our culture toward a widely held belief that the novel as a critical form is no longer relevant, and therefore, needed to tell us about the world. That would be a bad thing if that happened. So to Carmody and those who hold his opinion on the matter, I would say: the novel is damn-well needed to tell us about the world in this day and age, and it worries me that others might think it isn't. We should encourage, not discourage, those making efforts to use the novel to see the world in new, challenging, ways.
In short, there's room for both fiction and nonfiction at the centre of cultural discourse, and you don't have to push either out to raise important questions/communicate needed information.
Look here, doubters and haters: we shouldn't make attempts to pronounce the novel dead. We should make attempts to breathe as much life as possible into this literary form, so that it continues to do what it has been able to do so effectively in the past: tell us about the world.