March 26th, 2009


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.