February 14, 2004


It seems it is now my turn to lie in bed and make grumbling noises. I'm not nearly as sick as Damian was, thankfully, but I've been better.

Since I have no Jennifer Crusie novels on hand, I spent most of my wakeful time web surfing. (The combination of PowerBook and wifi is a splendid thing.) I came across an interview with Ursula LeGuin (via Blog of a Bookslut). She's such a graceful, thoughtful woman. Also, she said this, which resonated for me:

Soon after A Wizard of Earthsea came out in England it received a review in a science-fiction periodical which took the book to task for being "consolatory" and "reassuring". Well, fair enough, I thought, if the consolation is false, if the reassurance is unwarranted; but are consolation and reassurance inherently false, unwarranted - foolish, soft, silly, childish - sentimental? Are we writers only to threaten, terrify, and depress our readers with our ruthless honesty: have we not as good a right to offer them whatever comfort we've come by honestly?

I wrote the reviewer and told him what I thought, and that I thought I had Tolkien to back me up. He wrote back nicely enough saying that of course he hadn't been thinking of the book as being written for children. Apparently it is permissible to reassure or console children, but not adults.

Such an attitude seems to me to be based on a strange notion that the Common Reader is so happy, so foolishly confident, so stupidly trustful, that the Common Writer's whole duty is to convince him that life is hard and full of grief and that there is no consolation. Most adults I know already know that life is hard and full of grief; and they look for both confirmation of this knowledge, and consolation for it, in art.

I tend toward positive conclusions in my own writing: reconciliations, growth, even happiness. This is not necessarily fashionable. I think some people feel it makes a work too accessible, too lowest common denominator, too pretty. Fuck that.

LeGuin, of course, said it far far better.

Posted by Tamar at February 14, 2004 09:59 PM

Thanks for the lovely quote from a writer I've admired for, it seems, my whole life. And what a smart one!

The secret about the big hard holes exposed by much serious fiction: they are, in some ways, easier than the more elusive strands of connection and re-connection. Ordinary yes, essential, yes. Easy to write about? Not at all. (Didn't you turn me on to Colette, who did both so masterfully?)

Posted by: Chris at February 15, 2004 11:25 AM