Everywhere you turn today, someone (or something) is talking to you—the television, the radio, cell phones, your computer. If you think some of the novels and stories you read are talking to you too, you're not alone, and you're not mistaken. In this innovative, multidisciplinary work, Irene Kacandes reads contemporary fiction as a form of conversation and as part of the larger conversation that is modern culture.
Within a framework of talk as interaction, Kacandes considers texts that can be classified as "statements," that is, texts that wholly or in part ask for their readers to react— to talk back—to them in certain ways. The works she addresses—from writers as varied as Harriet O. Wilson, Margaret Atwood, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Graham Swift, Günter Grass, John Barth, Julio Cortázar, and Italo Calvino—conduct their interactions in certain modes to accomplish different sorts of cultural work: storytelling, testimony, apostrophe, and interactivity. By focusing on texts within these groupings, Kacandes is able to relate the different modes of talk fiction to extraliterary cultural developments in our oral age—and to show how such interactions, however contrary to the dominant twentieth-century view of literature as art for art's sake, help to keep literature alive and speaking to us.