By presenting us with a limitless number of nonstopped stories, the narratives that the media relate – the consumption of which has so dramatically cut into the time the educated public once devoted to reading – offer a lesson in amorality and detachment that is antithetical to the one embodied by the enterprise of the novel.
In storytelling as practiced by the novelist, there is always – as I have argued – an ethical component. This ethical component is not the truth, as opposed to the falsity of the chronicle. It is the model of completeness, of felt intensity, of enlightenment supplied by the story, and its resolution – which is the opposite of the model of obtuseness, of non-understanding, of passive dismay, and the consequent numbing of feeling, offered by our mediadisseminated glut of unending stories. Television gives us, in an extremely debased and un-truthful form, a truth that the novelist is obliged to suppress in the interest of the ethical model of understanding peculiar to the enterprise of fiction: namely, that the characteristic feature of our universe is that many things are happening at the same time. (“Time exists in order that it doesn’t happen all at once … space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.”)
To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.
Susan Sontag: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning