Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
This little snippet from John Updike is something of a wake-up call.
It’s tempting to go on and on about the state of the literary novel in America today, about how publishing, and therefore reading, have been hijacked by the entertainment culture, relegating literary fiction to a clique of readers who support a scant few MFA grads and aging giants. Tempting, but I won’t do it today.
I just want to second what Updike says D.H. Lawrence said, that the purpose of the novel is to extend the reader’s sympathy. It’s a beautifully simple idea, but one that I’m afraid is largely missing from a lot of today’s popular titles. They seem to exist only to put a protagonist in danger and then get her out of it by the end. This idea of “sympathy” morphs from “understand the humanity of a coal miner or a poor mother or a black man in chains” to “root for the hero to get out of another jam.”
What is it like to be someone else, the other? That’s what the novel is capable of depicting in a way that no other art form I can think of (other than the stage play) accomplishes.