Q. Nabokov describes the term “reality” as “one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes.” In “Getting Down to What Is Really Real,” you seem as much appalled by “Reality TV” as you are fascinated by it. Can you talk about its complicated allure? Why do you think it’s become so popular?
John Jeremiah Sullivan: Seven or the eight years ago, the genre started expanding—to the point where now you’d be hard-pressed to find an aspect of American life it hasn’t touched—and there came a point when you started to feel that for some people, in some people’s minds, it was actually messing with reality. The boundaries were mingling. This was years before you had a spectacle like, a recent Republican VP candidate getting her own reality show, but you could feel that coming. It’s the feeling I was interested in and tried to write about. Genres can do this thing sometimes of giving us frames to shape our lives in, to make sense of them. The novel did that for a couple of hundred years. These shows are doing it now for a lot of Americans. That’s probably not good.
(Read the rest of the interview at Critical Mob.)