Three weird things about today
1. My shoulder hurts from too much exercise. That is a first. Feels just like RSD from too much writing, but on the wrong arm.
2. Realized I’m really tired of fiction that has no emotional depth. Thus, I’m enjoying stuff more, but also putting more stuff down.
3. Thinking about SF and Fantasy cons and remembered seeing Laurell K Hamilton once. She was pretty cool, and clearly loved writing the books she did. She was somewhat dismissive of their value, though, in comparison to “great” works of art like Dostoevsky. But, she said, she’d had wonderful and powerful moments were fans told her they were going through horrific life events, and her books offered them a much needed escape, a means to catch their breath and gain some emotional strength back. And that was as great a prize as any. It was a powerful anecdote she shared. She was moved, and so was the crowd. But she capped her comment by saying that “I bet no one says that about Dostoevsky.”
Sadly, it struck a bad note with me. Not the validity of the person enjoying her fiction in a much needed time in their life, which was wonderful and important, but dismissing a classic as being unable to achieve that kind of positive impact on readers in hard times.
I’ve written about my own experience with trauma and its impact on my reading life. And I can say that I completely understand the need for escape via fiction that had no realism in it, fiction that has tremendous psychic distance between its story and my life. I am forever in Robert E. Howard and Solomon Kane’s debt during a particular bad patch.
But I’ve also found resonance in such times with writers who wrote more realistic (compared to REH) work (though all of it touched the fantastical), and with a greater attention to language, theme and structure than you can find in many genre novels. Herman Hesse’s STEPPENWOLFE was a lifesaver at time of intellectual fatigue. The short fiction of Gary Braunbeck reached through the numbness of a rough patch and connected with its visceral emotional resonance. Even Dostoevsky has come to my aid. And it was his command of language and deep psychologically rich work that provided me insights I’ve kept forever. My favorite being this line, from THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
“Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering.” Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
It’s a simple, elegant, and powerful sentence. The kind that hits you like a hammer and leads to deep and important thoughts about your own life, and the nature of evil.
Read whatever you love, love whatever you read, but don’t dismiss the value of classics, realism, or other genres for their ability to reach in and provide comfort, connection, and resonance. It’s all good grist for the emotional mill.