The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television was published by Vanderbilt University Press in 2006. The book explores the seemingly tenuous position of literary fiction in contemporary U.S. media culture, paying particular attention to the ways in which the novel has suggested its own demise through its representations of television and other late twentieth-century modes of communication. More important in this study, however, than the question of whether the novel is becoming obsolete is that of what purpose it serves to claim that it is so. The argument of The Anxiety of Obsolescence is constructed through readings of the work of Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, as well as through a critical engagement with the cultural contexts of that fiction, including scholarly work such as media and literary theory, but also popular journalism and phenomena such as Oprah’s Book Club. Throughout, the book argues that the anxiety of obsolescence is first and foremost a writerly strategem, one that allows the novelist to create a protected space within which the novel’s survival is assured — and, not incidentally, within which the novelist’s own social privilege is extended.
The Anxiety of Obsolescence was named an “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice, the publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, in January 2008, and was selected as a “book of the month” by the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies in October 2007.
For more information, see the website for the book.