I think there's a lot of value in fiction that's clever - fiction that poses interesting questions about the world, or speculates on future possibilities. I'm halfway through William Gibson's Neuromancer, a staple of the sci-fi canon, and I'm amazed how much of the future he predicted. There's even a reference to systems that prevent AI from recursively self improving their intelligence, which is pretty goddamn impressive given that the intelligence explosion hypothesis only recently began to acquire any sort of presence in the public consciousness. The man is referred to as a sage for good reason.
But I digress.
For me, fiction is a spiritual thing. I experience stories and narrative because I want to feel something. For the majority of my life, I was a devout evangelical Christian. After I renounced my faith, there was an existential vacuum in my life. I filled it with a lot of superficial things I thought would make me happy, but didn't. On some level, I think I was searching for a replacement for the faith I used to have. Not quite transcendence, but a way of seeing that opens you up to the beauty inherent in all our lives.
It was around this time that I got into stories. At the end of the day, the stories that stayed with me there the ones that, on some deep, meaningful level, moved me as a human being. When a character's brokenness resonates with you, it evokes a kind of empathy that reconnects you to your own humanness. The reason good literature is tragic is because it mirrors the tragedy of life.
the people you love
A good book haunts you like your past. The characters stay with you after the last page, because they feel like real people. You can literally feel their suffering. Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood. Stories like these leave a certain flavor of sadness that's unique to fiction. It's a soft kind of pain, the kind you're grateful for.
A close friend of mine recently read the latest draft of my novel. She told me it was like a cloud hanging over her head when she went to sleep. For me, this was the highest form of praise. It's comments like this that validate years of hard work, of leaving all of yourself on that blank page.
I want to break your heart, and I want you to thank me for it.
people I admire
Bret Easton Ellis