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As writers compete with a torrent of storytelling mediums — from streaming services to video games to podcasts — immortality and greatness in literature may mean different things than before.

In the digital age, attention spans keep getting shorter and fewer readers are choosing fiction, citing its lack of utility. Any author now shooting for the stars, aiming to outstrip Shakespeare or to match Mishima’s “Sea of Fertility” — a row of novels whose frequent self-indulgence is the flipside of fantastical ambition — may find their audience reduced to their mother and closest friends.

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