How to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart

Weather by Jenny OffillHow to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart. New York Times Magazine.

Jenny Offill is the master of novels told in sly, burnished fragments. In her latest, ‘Weather,’ she uses this small form to address the climate collapse.

In 2005, the naturalist Robert Macfarlane asked, in an influential essay in The Guardian: “Where is the literature of climate change? Where are the novels, the plays, the poems, the songs, the libretti, of this massive contemporary anxiety?” How should we understand the paucity of the cultural response to climate change, he asked, compared with the body of work catalyzed by the threat of nuclear war? In recent years, however, planetary collapse has emerged as a dominant concern in contemporary fiction…

The climate crisis, Offill shows, is reshaping not just our world but also our minds. “Weather” joins other new fiction in transforming the novel of consciousness into a record of climate grief. “Sometimes I think that people today must be the saddest people ever, because we know we ruined everything,” the heroine of Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport” thinks.

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