The American author Richard Russo will discuss the topic "Is America Over?" at Foyles, the London bookshop, this week.
The American author Richard Russo will discuss the topic "Is America Over?" at Foyles, the London bookshop, this week.

Has the internet killed the Great American Novel?



When someone like Johnny Depp says American culture is a disaster, you take it with a pinch of salt. After all, it's not as if Pirates of the Caribbean is the apogee of film-making, even though the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow are among the highest-grossing movies yet. But it seems Depp's is not the only voice of dissent. Recently, the critic Lee Siegel, writing in the New York Observer, declared American fiction "culturally irrelevant". On Tuesday, the prestigious London bookshop Foyles will hold an event with the headline-grabbing title, "Is America Over?" Leaving aside the rather amusing notion of an entire country being treated as if it were a fly-by-night cultural trend, the concerns are real. And Siegel's piece has caused a veritable storm.

Its headline - "Where have all the Mailers gone?" - speared the heart of the problem. By that Siegel really meant: "Where has the Great American Novel gone?" Norman Mailer truly believed in this concept; a perfect work of fiction that could somehow meld the private lives of its characters with broad "state of America" themes. The bigger the book, the better, too. And since the 1960s, the Great American Novel has become the mighty beast that stalks any new American novelist with pretensions to being filed under literary fiction. It hasn't helped that America has, until recently, enjoyed something of a purple patch in the genre, thanks to John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo. The problem is, most of these literary giants have either died or begun to lose their powers. And there's no one, according to Siegel, to take their place. Moreover, he argued, "the most interesting, perceptive and provocative writers of our moment write narrative non-fiction".

Has Siegel got a point? Will Richard Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who is the main draw at Foyles, side with the notion of "the fall of the 21st-century Babylon"? Certainly any previous fascination with American literature was representative of the broader dominance of American culture. But the dismay caused by the George W Bush years, combined with the incessant globalisation that sees the country's brands in every shopping mall across the world, may have dulled the allure of the American Dream. And if the rest of the planet feels strangely ambivalent about America, it perhaps follows that American novelists themselves will also be unsure about how to define their culture.

It's not that American writers aren't still keen to write about big themes. This year, Dave Eggers took on one of the greatest natural, economic and social disasters in America's history with his Hurricane Katrina book Zeitoun, but it was just the kind of narrative non-fiction that Siegel believes is now the dominant force in the country's writing. Adam Haslett's debut novel, Union Atlantic, takes on the excesses of the banking system. It is a fascinating and at times enthralling book. But at just 300 pages, it's not the epic Siegel and many others clearly miss.

Perhaps that's why there's so much such excitement around the September publication of Jonathan Franzen's first novel in nine years. His book The Corrections, published in 2001, is regularly cited as one of this century's most important books. The story of a dysfunctional American family, it seemed to nail America at a time of great change. His new work, Freedom, appears to cover similar ground, but it'll be interesting to see how he deals with a world that has changed so much in the interval between the books.

It's a change that Philip Roth, for one, blames on the internet. He was probably having a bit of fun when he predicted that in 25 years, attention spans will have shrunk so much the audience for novels will have dwindled to those for Latin poetry today. But there was an interesting subtext to his comments. Perhaps this snappy, hyper-connected, fast-paced world is shaping the kind of literature we get.

The notion of fine-tuning a doorstop epic about America over a period of years is probably alien to the young writers who featured on The New Yorker's "20 under 40" list of young novelists: the initial subject of Siegel's ire. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jonathan Safran Foer - to name two on that list - are different kinds of writers from those Americans may have been used to hailing in the past. But in writing perceptively about the world as a whole, they prove America isn't over. It's just different, and, whisper it, perhaps just a little less self-obsessed.

Tips for job-seekers
  • Do not submit your application through the Easy Apply button on LinkedIn. Employers receive between 600 and 800 replies for each job advert on the platform. If you are the right fit for a job, connect to a relevant person in the company on LinkedIn and send them a direct message.
  • Make sure you are an exact fit for the job advertised. If you are an HR manager with five years’ experience in retail and the job requires a similar candidate with five years’ experience in consumer, you should apply. But if you have no experience in HR, do not apply for the job.

David Mackenzie, founder of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones Middle East

CONFIRMED LINE-UP

Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan)
Ons Jabeur (Tunisia)
Maria Sakkari (Greece)
Barbora Krejčíková (Czech Republic)
Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil)
Jeļena Ostapenko (Latvia)
Liudmila Samsonova
Daria Kasatkina 
Veronika Kudermetova 
Caroline Garcia (France) 
Magda Linette (Poland) 
Sorana Cîrstea (Romania) 
Anastasia Potapova 
Anhelina Kalinina (Ukraine)  
Jasmine Paolini (Italy) 
Emma Navarro (USA) 
Lesia Tsurenko (Ukraine)
Naomi Osaka (Japan) - wildcard
Emma Raducanu (Great Britain) - wildcard
Alexandra Eala (Philippines) - wildcard

Company profile

Company name: Shipsy
Year of inception: 2015
Founders: Soham Chokshi, Dhruv Agrawal, Harsh Kumar and Himanshu Gupta
Based: India, UAE and Indonesia
Sector: logistics
Size: more than 350 employees
Funding received so far: $31 million in series A and B rounds
Investors: Info Edge, Sequoia Capital’s Surge, A91 Partners and Z3 Partners

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Directed by: Shaka King

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons

Four stars

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

How to avoid getting scammed
  • Never click on links provided via app or SMS, even if they seem to come from authorised senders at first glance
  • Always double-check the authenticity of websites
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your working and personal services
  • Only use official links published by the respective entity
  • Double-check the web addresses to reduce exposure to fake sites created with domain names containing spelling errors
The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 201hp at 5,200rpm

Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km

Price: Dh133,900

On sale: now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Teams

Punjabi Legends Owners: Inzamam-ul-Haq and Intizar-ul-Haq; Key player: Misbah-ul-Haq

Pakhtoons Owners: Habib Khan and Tajuddin Khan; Key player: Shahid Afridi

Maratha Arabians Owners: Sohail Khan, Ali Tumbi, Parvez Khan; Key player: Virender Sehwag

Bangla Tigers Owners: Shirajuddin Alam, Yasin Choudhary, Neelesh Bhatnager, Anis and Rizwan Sajan; Key player: TBC

Colombo Lions Owners: Sri Lanka Cricket; Key player: TBC

Kerala Kings Owners: Hussain Adam Ali and Shafi Ul Mulk; Key player: Eoin Morgan

Venue Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Format 10 overs per side, matches last for 90 minutes

Timeline October 25: Around 120 players to be entered into a draft, to be held in Dubai; December 21: Matches start; December 24: Finals

Under 19 World Cup

Group A: India, Japan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka

Group B: Australia, England, Nigeria, West Indies

Group C: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Scotland, Zimbabwe

Group D: Afghanistan, Canada, South Africa, UAE

 

UAE fixtures

Saturday, January 18, v Canada

Wednesday, January 22, v Afghanistan

Saturday, January 25, v South Africa

MWTC

Tickets start from Dh100 for adults and are now on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae and Virgin Megastores across the UAE. Three-day and travel packages are also available at 20 per cent discount.

The specs

Engine: two permanent magnet synchronous motors
Transmission: two-speed
Power: 625hp
Torque: 850Nm
Range: 456km
Price: from Dh737,480
On sale: now

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5

10 tips for entry-level job seekers
  • Have an up-to-date, professional LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, set one up today. Avoid poor-quality profile pictures with distracting backgrounds. Include a professional summary and begin to grow your network.
  • Keep track of the job trends in your sector through the news. Apply for job alerts at your dream organisations and the types of jobs you want – LinkedIn uses AI to share similar relevant jobs based on your selections.
  • Double check that you’ve highlighted relevant skills on your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  • For most entry-level jobs, your resume will first be filtered by an applicant tracking system for keywords. Look closely at the description of the job you are applying for and mirror the language as much as possible (while being honest and accurate about your skills and experience).
  • Keep your CV professional and in a simple format – make sure you tailor your cover letter and application to the company and role.
  • Go online and look for details on job specifications for your target position. Make a list of skills required and set yourself some learning goals to tick off all the necessary skills one by one.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach outside your immediate friends and family to other acquaintances and let them know you are looking for new opportunities.
  • Make sure you’ve set your LinkedIn profile to signal that you are “open to opportunities”. Also be sure to use LinkedIn to search for people who are still actively hiring by searching for those that have the headline “I’m hiring” or “We’re hiring” in their profile.
  • Prepare for online interviews using mock interview tools. Even before landing interviews, it can be useful to start practising.
  • Be professional and patient. Always be professional with whoever you are interacting with throughout your search process, this will be remembered. You need to be patient, dedicated and not give up on your search. Candidates need to make sure they are following up appropriately for roles they have applied.

Arda Atalay, head of Mena private sector at LinkedIn Talent Solutions, Rudy Bier, managing partner of Kinetic Business Solutions and Ben Kinerman Daltrey, co-founder of KinFitz

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

The Old Slave and the Mastiff

Patrick Chamoiseau

Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale

Bullet Train

Director: David Leitch
Stars: Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Sandra Bullock
Rating: 3/5

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

SPEC SHEET: NOTHING PHONE (2)

Display: 6.7” LPTO Amoled, 2412 x 1080, 394ppi, HDR10+, Corning Gorilla Glass

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2, octa-core; Adreno 730 GPU

Memory: 8/12GB

Capacity: 128/256/512GB

Platform: Android 13, Nothing OS 2

Main camera: Dual 50MP wide, f/1.9 + 50MP ultrawide, f/2.2; OIS, auto-focus

Main camera video: 4K @ 30/60fps, 1080p @ 30/60fps; live HDR, OIS

Front camera: 32MP wide, f/2.5, HDR

Front camera video: Full-HD @ 30fps

Battery: 4700mAh; full charge in 55m w/ 45w charger; Qi wireless, dual charging

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC (Google Pay)

Biometrics: Fingerprint, face unlock

I/O: USB-C

Durability: IP54, limited protection

Cards: Dual-nano SIM

Colours: Dark grey, white

In the box: Nothing Phone (2), USB-C-to-USB-C cable

Price (UAE): Dh2,499 (12GB/256GB) / Dh2,799 (12GB/512GB)

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos

The Arts Edit

A guide to arts and culture, from a Middle Eastern perspective

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      The Arts Edit