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Why novels can save civilization

"...when I have read a long novel, when I have entered systematically into a sensibility that is alien to mine, the author's or a character's, when I have become interested in another person because he is interesting, not because he is privileged or great, there is a possibility that at the end I will be a degree less self-centered than I was at the beginning, that I will be a degree more able to see the world as another sees it. ...

When I've read lots of long novels, I will be trained in thinking about the world in many sometimes conflicting ways. ...Perched on the cusp between the particular and the general, between expertise and common sense, the novel promotes compromise, and especially promotes the idea that lessons can be learned, if not by the characters, then by the author and the reader."

- Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, pp.175-176

Yeah! Amen!

In reading this book so far, I've actually wanted to quote her and say "Yeah! Amen!" about a hundred times. But I'll restrict myself to this one for today.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
kalquessa
Mar. 27th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
So, so true. It's so much easier to see other people's poit of view when you've practiced on fictional characters, first. (Possibly because fictional characters are generally must less irritating than real people when stating their point of view. Ahem.)
mollyringle
Mar. 28th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
Hehe--it does help to be able to close the book on annoying characters, and leave reviews about them on Amazon. Still, getting into their heads probably does make it more likely that you'll tolerate real-life annoying people rather than, say, declaring war upon them.

And yet I swear if I wrote down in a book what some real-life people have done, everyone would say, "Pshaw, like anyone actually reaches such levels of asshattery." Truth, fiction, stranger than, etc.
thomas_a_kempis
Mar. 31st, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
Wisdom, young Lioness.

You are wise beyond your tender years.

+
mollyringle
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
Thank you--it's good to think of 33 as still "tender." :)
naill_renfro
Apr. 1st, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
Everyone younger than me is of tender years.
mollyringle
Apr. 3rd, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I guess that's how most of us how calculate it... :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )