Booking Through Thursday: Posterity

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

I think posterity will be quite different in a century from now. With the ease and accessibility of books and, yes, even eBooks, nearly everything published is going to survive the years. Fan culture, instead of English teachers and literary critics, will dictate what texts survive the most visibly. A book is no longer a last manuscript languishing in an antique shop–it’s widespread and, importantly, can be digitized. If the data is destroyed, the copies of the book remain, and vice versa. I’m sure there are plenty published contemporaries of Austen and Dickens who have faded into oblivion. I don’t think that’s going to happen for books published now and in the future.

I’m not quite sure if I can make an assessment concerning what will survive the best, but I’ll give it a shot.

I hope Neil Gaiman’s works will be well read, especially American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett. Since The Wizard of Oz is still such a cultural touchstone (China Glaze, a nail polish company, just rereleased a nail polish collection based on it), I think that Gregory Maguire’s Wicked will survive along with it, especially if the musical remains popular. As I’ve said, fan culture will dictate what lives the most visibly, and in that case, Harry Potter will be read often. As well it should–every kid needs a good, long fantasy series.

6 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Posterity

  1. I hadn’t thought about the fan culture aspect…adds a whole new dimension to the question. I’m a Gaiman fan too. Good Omens had me laughing out loud!

  2. I agree: I think this was a difficult question to answer because things are shifting so rapidly. We also seem to have more lists and more prizes every year, so we no longer have a body of scholars or critics telling us what is (or isn’t) relevant.

  3. Hm. I wonder. I don’t doubt that everything will be out there somewhere, but I think most texts will still languish (as you say) in the electronic equivalent of an antique shop because only so much of the incredible flood of information will be able to be known by the minority of people in any language who call themselves readers. I think those books that survive posterity will, as you imagine, be popular for one reason or another, but will also be strong narratives.

    • I think the percentage of books languishing will decrease- as I’ve said, we’re no longer relying on literary experts and English teachers, but increasingly relying on fan culture and word of mouth. There will still be some, of course, but I think the accessibility of books is so high that it’s definitely changed things.

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