It seems that America has stopped reading. On trains and in cafes, I still see faces bent into books, but the trend is clear, and the rest of the Anglophone world is no better. If Oprah ever discovers the pleasures of World of Warcraft, and cancels her book club, the injury to the publishing industry will probably be fatal. Walk into a Barnes and Noble, and you’ll see that they’re desperate to sell everything but books, that they feel ashamed to be involved with them—to get to actual Literature, you have to walk through at least one floor of accessories, gifts, and book-shaped-objects. Fiction is, therefore, becoming more and more like poetry, being read only by its practitioners.
I believe that, to save fiction, we have to get stories back into people’s hands. This is my idea how: choose a house in your neighbourhood, wait until “trash day,” and quietly rip open a black bag or two. Go through the thrown out things, and write a very short story about them. Then post it through the owner’s door, with a note saying, “If you want to know the ending to this story, knock on the door to the left.” You have also gone through that house’s rubbish, and posted through its door a story which could, conceivably, be both the ending and beginning of the two stories combined.
The scheme makes fiction personal, immediate, and communal. Literature is saved.
Yet, whenever I’ve explained this plan to friends, they say it sounds more like stalking than writing. All great ideas were misunderstood at first.