September 7, 2010

Technology and Written American Fiction

What is the place for high technology in U.S. literature? It seems the conventional wisdom dictates a dearth of cell phones, Tweets, Facebook, and computers--unless the genre is science fiction.

I've thought for awhile along this line and I can think of no better recent depiction of the cell phone's impact on modern communication than the film The Departed. Martin Scorcese's crime tale integrates text messages, phone rings, and property ownership so well into the script that I'm left to wonder how they relate to the greater themes of loyalty, secrecy, and deceit.

Do cell phones give away secrets or help conceal them? Do cell phones--especially text messages--blur communication or clarify it?

In my book, I tried to integrate some small questions about modern communication into the chapter on Hurricane Andrew. Circa 1992, the cell phone was still a novelty in high-level state government communication.

Maybe I err in my analysis of high-tech in fiction. After all, considering older fiction, didn't Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn include the steamboat in the story? Or was that Tom Sawyer? In either case, wasn't the steamboat a brand-new technology or adolescent technology in that era?

Even if there is a consistent trend in American fiction, I think The Departed merits special recognition for its high-tech art.