Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is truth stranger than fiction?

I'm not so sure. I can think of some pretty weird stuff. Most writers of novels and short stories can.  Sadly, I am neither of those.

What I recently did become is an author of literary criticism.  That's pretty weird stuff, at times.  The truth I was after lay somewhere in Rudyard Kipling's (author of The Jungle Books) experience of India and his beliefs about...people.  By people, I mean not-white people.  What seems funny is that I was looking for this truth inside his fiction.

What type of lens does literature--at least fictional writing--provide for viewing the world around us?

The scholarship tells us a lot about people's views of the matter.  Plato wanted to ban fiction altogether.  He also felt that poets should be banned in his ideal Republic.  On the other hand, much of his writing took the form of fictional accounts of Socrates in conversations around Plato's big ideas.  Plato was by nature a writer, as well, and the fictionality of philosophical treatises has been a vexing problem for far wiser minds than mine.

More lately the discussion has been about what fiction does to us.  Movies, TV, books.  Cartoons, video games, comic books.  Are we desensitizing ourselves to violence?  To right action?  To being able to think and function in reality?  We may even be to a point where scads of people have made themselves into the protagonists of their own reality shows.  YouTube is probably the best example of this.  Does that kind of thinking indicate an uncomfortability with, or an inability to live fully in the "real world?"

What about life as we might otherwise find it is so unsatisfying without fiction, without stories?

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