Stories are Special

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The legacy of Philip Roth

Zadie Smith, writing in the New Yorker on the recent death of Philip Roth, declared: ‘He wrote every single book he intended to write and said every last thing he meant to say.’ How wonderful! I’m planning on being around for a few years yet, but I hope when I finally pop my clogs that someone will say that of my writing. What an epitaph.

Nowadays we have more opportunities to broadcast our views than ever before. Twitter and Facebook are awash with people’s opinions. Our profound observations can be immortalised through social media. And as some people know to their cost, once our thoughts have been launched into cyberspace, it’s impossible to delete them. So why is that not enough? Why do some people still feel the need to write books when we live in such a digital age?

Tweets and posts can say so much but they don’t usually take readers on emotional journeys like novels do. Story telling is an ancient art. Since time immemorial, narratives have helped us make sense of the world and will continue to do so, I hope, for centuries to come.

Sadly, Philip Roth has written his last novel, but he has thousands of successors willing to take up the pen or keyboard and help the art of storytelling to live on. For that is one of the most powerful and lasting ways to communicate ideas.