John Freeman begins his review of Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End by asserting that
A thousand years from now, if future generations turn to contemporary fiction as a window into the past, they will wind up with a rather skewed portrait of America. People, they might surmise, spent very little time in cars, resolved many disputes with violence, almost never slept with their spouse, and, in spite of pulling in regular incomes, never, ever went to work.
Which is precisely why future generations should not read fiction "as a window into the past." And why we should not be reading fiction of the past as a "window" onto the "reality" of the life therein evoked. Only bad writers, writers who think of fiction as a more "dramatic" way of recording history or who imagine themselves as "saying something" about The Way We Live Now, take themselves to be providing a "window" for future readers.
Good fiction is inherently a "skewed portrait," skewed by the writer's particular vision of experience and by that writer's singular way of transforming experience into language and molding both language and experience into aesthetic form. In subject or theme, most good fiction either depicts human situations in extremis, focusing on characters and events that may illustrate more or less universal human predicaments embodied in an exemplary instance but that do not exist primarily to "represent" a specific time (Catch-22, The Tunnel, Sabbath's Theater), or does indeed center on "ordinary" experiences but emphasizes their status as experiences for the characters undergoing them, not their value as emblematic events "capturing" a moment in time. The characters in Stephen Dixon's fiction, for example, do plenty of driving (Interstate is constructed around the act of driving) and are often shown at work (especially in his earlier fiction--Garbage, for example), but I don't think "future generations" will want to see these characters as anything other than the specific creations of Stephen Dixon.
The "window" afforded by the best fiction is always clouded, distorted, self-reflective. For these very reasons, it continues to fascinate. Fiction that pretends to offer a clear view onto the events of the day will never reach those "future generations" except as a moldy sample excavated by some social historian. Thus if Then We Came to the End is intended as a more transparent portal onto Our Times, I probably won't be reading it. Although judging from Freeman's description of the book, I think I already have read it, when, windowless, it was called Something Happened, by Joseph Heller.