|Charlotte Perkins Gilman, writing.|
There's a lot of talk these days about how TV, much of it very good, has taken the place in our culture that the novel used to hold in the 19th century: a medium in which we think about any number of issues of major public importance through imaginative fiction that reaches across divisions of class, religion, etc. The Victorian age was the heyday of the social problem novel; it was also one of the artistic high points of an ambitious and self-confident genre. A broad public audience looked to the novel to tell them about who they were; just the title of Trollope's The Way We Live Now suggests a certain representational gutsiness. Who shows us the way we live now? At least among most of my friends, as well as any number of writers and critics, you're more likely to hear names of TV shows—The Wire, Girls, Black Mirror—than titles of novels. And you're more likely to be able to have a conversation about them with a random person on the street, too. A wildly successful book sells 150,000 copies in the first week. Even if you sold that many copies every week for a year, you'd only have half the audience of a single episode of the show This Is Us (a title of Trollopesque ambition).