I've seen a lot of claims that the Internet has made American fiction more attention-grabbing, superficial, hip, snarky, and so on, so I was interested to see this alternative perspective in a recent Ethan Canin interview.
"The Internet is changing American fiction - and I don't mean in some kind of metaphysical way. During the last 10 years, the young writers I teach have gone from writing small stories set in strip malls, which was the Ann Beattie and Raymond Carver influence, to huge novels that take place in Madagascar. They can just look up all kinds of information and photography on the Web."
Curiouser and curiouser. Before the Internet, the research tools needed to write huge novels set in exotic places were already available to anyone with access to a university library. But there are certainly fiction research tasks the Internet's especially useful for -- if you want to know what the daily life of, say, a strip mall employee or a lion tamer feels like, you'll probably be able to find a few dozen blogs dripping with salient details you couldn't have made up.
Anyways, any tendency in literature can be relied on to provoke a vigorous counter-tendency, and I was quoting Canin mostly so I can segue into plugging tonight's Cocktails with Canin event, a fundraiser for Litquake. This will be an on-stage conversation with Ethan Canin, and there will be cocktails. Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway, San Francisco. Tuesday, June 2nd. $55 for the VIP Reception starting at 6 pm. $15 for the 8 pm. program.
Another thing -- in the interview I linked to, Canin talks about Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger -- I just wanted to add that this is one of my favorite books too.