The Magic of Fiction: We Read to Feel That We Are Not Alone

catkins-bookshelf-literatureDavid Foster Wallace was a brilliant writer, whose life was cut short by suicide in 2008. Time magazine recognized his monumental novel (1,079 pages long!), Infinite Jest published in 1996, as one of the 100 best English language novels in the 20th century. When asked, what makes fiction so uniquely magical, Wallace answered, “Well, the first line of attack for that question is that there is this existential loneliness in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking or what it’s like inside you and you don’t know what it’s like inside me. In fiction I think we can leap over that wall itself in a certain way. But that’s just the first level, because the idea of mental or emotional intimacy with a character is a delusion or a contrivance that’s set up through art by the writer. There’s another level that a piece of fiction is a conversation. There’s a relationship set up between the reader and the writer that’s very strange and very complicated and hard to talk about. A really great piece of fiction for me may or may not take me away and make me forget that I’m sitting in a chair. There’s real commercial stuff can do that, and a riveting plot can do that, but it doesn’t make me feel less lonely. There’s a kind of Ah-ha! Somebody at least for a moment feels about something or sees something the way that I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s these brief flashes or flames, but I get that sometimes. I feel unalone—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. I feel human and unalone and that I’m in a deep, significant conversation with another consciousness in fiction and poetry in a way that I don’t with other art.”

Read related post: Why Writers Write
William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
The Responsibility of the Poet
The Power of Literature
The Wisdom of C. S. Lewis

For further reading: Conversations with David Foster Wallace edited by Stephen Burn (2012)

Advertisements

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: