25th September 2015
"For what is story if not relief from the pain of the inconclusive, from dread of the meaningless?" Mona Van Duyn.
Well, that's a pretty bleak analysis. Sort of Jean Paul Sartre meets Sylvia Plath. I would like to speak up for joy here and say that sometimes you read (and write) for the same reason you eat creme brulee - just because it is delicious. When I was a serious philosophy student in Edinburgh and then in Oxford, I read things like Sartre's Nausea, Hardy's Jude the Obscure, Mann's Death in Venice. I loved the gravitas and thought them very profound. I was all into existentialism and deep meaning. I wasn't so much looking for relief from pain as to wallow around in it.
But youth is like that: you have plenty of time to navigate out of the doldrums. These days I am inclined towards literature that is less self-absorbed. I'd rather be delighted than nauseated. The world is quite capable of gloom without me plummeting the depths of its dysfunction in fiction.
There is a tradition of dystopias in literature, starting with the 1923 Russian book "We." Authors don't seem to have much faith in the human being to evolve upwards instead of down. The alternate present I am writing about in my third and final book in the Veil Of Time series presents a better landscape than our current one: people live at peace in small self-sufficient townships run by women's councils instead of by male hierarchies. Well, we gave men their chance and look at the mess!
We can do better than this, and I am optimistic that we will get there. So this future literary projection of mine is a utopia of sorts (where utopia means one hell of a lot better than it is now - not perfection.) Our imaginations can run in any direction, so why not direct it towards the good and hopeful? By this I don't mean opting for stupidity or unfounded glee, but rather looking at things through a different lens, one that doesn't mark its time against the dirge.
PS: The interview I gave to booksgosocial last week will come out on October 1st, so I will give a link to it in next week's blog. Stay tuned!