Fiction and Reality

The Giant Buddha

‘I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.  I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like of all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.  Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of ‘generalization’ of suffering.  Does this make sense?  We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible.  But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive others identifying with our own.  This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside.  It might just be that simple.’ – From Larry McCaffery’s Dalkey Archive Press 1993 interview with David Foster Wallace.


Who, in the world of fiction, can you identify with?  Does s/he make you feel less lonely?


For me, it is Zadie Smith.  And whilst she is not a character, her words across the page – from fiction to fact – transmit my internal monologue from one thinking space to another.  I read her aloud.  To feel the melodic rhapsody.  To muse over the grammatically incorrect clauses that somehow bring her work to meaning.  Insightful meaning.  Smith is my world of fiction that draws me closer to surviving reality.

Picture 12

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