Friday, September 07, 2007


Shalom Auslander on modern fiction and crying jags:
I purchase more novels than I can possibly write off as expenses (trust me, I've tried), and put most of them down before I'm a third of the way through. Call it laziness if you like. I call it prudence: I can only kill myself once, and I'd like the book that makes me do so to be really worth it. I've read enough of them through, though, to know that if there's a baby, it will die. If there's a dog, it will be shot. A heart, broken. A family, torn apart. A city, demolished. A tire, flattened. A toe, stubbed. A nail, bent. A cup of tea, spilled. But cathartic, always cathartic.
[M]ost people, if book reviews and Amazon customer comments are anything to judge by, really would prefer to curl up in a chair, read something horrible about the awfulness of people, the futility of life, the inescapability of fate, and the impossibility of love, cry until the snot of authentic art runs from their noses, and feel like they’ve gotten their $21.95 worth. I am not a happy-ending type of person. If the truth is (and the weight of the evidence seems to indicate it as so) that life sucks, at least help me through it. Laugh at the suckiness. Show me why the suckiness is so foolish, so temporary, so meaningless. Comedy is anger (the good comedy, anyway), so Christ, get angry. But get me through it; not just "it's worse than you think," but "it's worse than you think, but it's all pretty stupid." You can't go on, you'll go on. And you'll trade bowler hats a few times, too, and lose a shoe.
Say what you want about genre fiction, but a lot of it is at least somewhat optimistic about the human condition: Mysteries can be solved. Science will take us to the stars. Love can prevail, or at least not destroy lives. (I'm looking at you, Atonement.)
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