Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I’m reading it right now – so far, so good! It’s set in a not too distant time, and I love this musing on the ‘evolution’ of language:
Rebecca was an academic star. Her new book was on the phenomenon of word casings, a term she’d invented for words that no longer had meaning outside quotation marks. English was full of these empty words – ‘friend’ and ‘real’ and ‘story’ and ‘change’ – words that had been shucked of their meanings and reduced to husks. Some, like ‘identity’, ‘search’, and ‘cloud’, had clearly been drained of life by their Web usage. With others, the reasons were more complex; how had ‘American’ become an ironic term? How had ‘democracy’ come to be used in an arch, mocking way?
(Don’t worry, the rest of novel is not all as earnest as this – it’s a bit more sardonic.)