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A thoughtful and personal introduction to modern fiction,
This review is from: Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
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The Oxford University Press "Very Short Introduction" series, now well over 350 in number, continues with this approach to contemporary fiction by a University of London professor. It is not, as you might think, a survey of modern novelists. Instead it concentrates on different styles of writing, with particular emphasis on the experimental. As for "contemporary", the author states in the introduction that he means "the last ten years or so", in other words the 21st century.
The most interesting chapters are, perhaps, those on "the past", "the present", and "the future". This relates not, of course, to when the novels were written, but to the period in which they are set. The past is represented by the historical novel and the future, typically, by science fiction. The author goes into the different ways in which each can be written; for example dialogue in the historical novel can be either in old or, as with Mantel's Wolf Hall, modern English. He writes at some length about the use of technology in "future" novels.
The author's emphasis on the experimental means that several examples he gives are far from being household names, while many popular "middlebrow" writers do not get a look in. I was pleased that one of my favourite modern novels, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, has over two pages devoted to it in the chapter on "the present" (even though it is set 50 years before it was written).
This is a thoughtful and quite personal "short introduction" which can be recommended to interested readers. Foreign works of fiction are also covered.