No doubt we haven’t seen the last of the novel or memoir of personal angst, for a long time now the preferred mode of writing; but as the troubles of the world worsen, these can come to seem self-indulgent. Is it a moment for the didactic side of novel-writing—its old roots, suppressed or concealed in happier times—to return with a tub-thumping, Victorian roar? Such a renaissance of purpose seems a positive development, an endorsement of the slyly pedagogic nature of the novel form, bringing with it readability, solidity, suspense, and relevance—novels that make you think, as people used to say when thinking was presumed to be an honorific, against the domination of “feeling” novels that make you weep.
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