'Awkward' implies both solidarity and implication. Nobody is exempt.
Tolstoy didn't know about steampunk or cyborgs, but he did know about the nightmarishness of steam power, unruly machines, and the creepy half-human status of the Russian peasant classes. In 'Anna Karenina,' nineteenth-century life itself is a relentless, relentlessly modern machine, flattening those who oppose it.
I love the novelist's freedom of going into different people's subjectivity and being able to work with them as characters.
Even in novels where the love relationship isn't the focus, I feel like it's often there, and the background is some barometer of whether this is a happy or sad story or whether this is a successful or unsuccessful life.
Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time,' especially 'Time Regained,' made me think differently about what the novel is and can do. Then I forgot about it, then reread it and remembered again.
When you walk around, you have all this stuff rattling around in your head, things that have happened to you, things you have read. Life is just life, and you get what you get out of it.