Since the debut of The Sopranos in 1999, we have been living, so we are regularly informed, in a “golden age” of television. And over the last few years, it’s become common to hear variations on the idea that quality cable TV shows are the new novels [e.g. "Cable TV is the New Novel"]... Clearly, the comparison is intended to honor TV, by associating it with the prestige and complexity that traditionally belong to literature. But at the same time, it is covertly a form of aggression against literature, suggesting that novels have ceded their role to a younger, more popular, more dynamic art form. Mixed feelings about literature — the desire to annex its virtues while simultaneously belittling them — are typical of our culture today, which doesn’t know quite how to deal with an art form, like the novel, that is both democratic and demanding.
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