At any of these moments and at many others, you may have had the impression of a contemporary strangeness whose character is holistic and atmospheric and unable to be reduced to a set of articulable causes. It involves the incoherent appeal of capitalist aesthetics, but isn’t only that. It involves the atomization of narrative, but isn’t only that. It involves the peculiar quality of loneliness in an interconnected world, but isn’t only that. It involves the confused determinism of individuals caught up in systems, but isn’t only that, isn’t only any of these things, is all of them plus a thousand others, orbiting each other and merging together and working on each other in ways it’s impossible to be entirely conscious of. That orbiting and merging and working is largely what we mean by “the present,” and one advantage of fictional narrative is that, because it can depict situations without insisting on interpretations, it can offer something of the nuance and complexity that are inescapable in our real apprehension of life. “There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion,” Francis Bacon wrote. I think this is true, and no wonder; look at the world.