The Deep Stuff of Legends
Art Business

The Deep Stuff of Legends

Thirty years ago—in November 1988—the novel as an art-form sputtered out and died. And a man named Neil Gaiman killed it. None of that is true, of course. At least, none of it is true in the sense of being the actual particulars, the genuine facts on the ground. Novels didn’t cease to be written. Novelists didn’t forget that book-length fiction was one of the central devices by which modern times tried to explain itself to itself. Publishers didn’t fold up their businesses and steal away into the night. There’s a lot of ruin in an art-form, and the novel, with its sneer of cold command , yet gazes out on the world of art it claims to dominate. Still, at the end of 1988, a 28-year-old Englishman published a comic-book series called The Sandman , and it meant something—something about the fading conviction that traditional fiction was the highest path, the greatest art. Even the most powerful cultural commitments to an art-form can change, of course. In the Poetics , Aristotle named epic poetry as the summit of the artistic impulse, and as late as Dante in the 14th century, with the Renaissance revival of classical learning, this […]

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