Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pompom shaker

"Literature must be an axe to smash the frozen sea of the heart." -- Kafka

I think this quote perfectly captures why we read and write, especially in our time, when technology and crowded lives and too much information seems to be deactivating our more tender feelings. (Thinking back on the late 1800s, I am reminded that these things seem to run in cycles. All that poverty and pollution and government corruption!) Literature is a safe place for feelings. You can cuddle up with a book and allow your heart to defrost a bit and nothing terrible will happen.

One of the nice things about spec fic is the gentle way it opens up our hearts. The secondary world aspects of these genres helps us distance ourselves from any overwhelming emotion. And many of the great SF/F books work by crafting characters we love and admire, characters we don't mind sharing our lives with. Genre lit gives more of a tender defrosting than Kafka's steely ax--and I think that's okay. Much of literary fiction seems crafted out of pure cruel truth, bound and determined to show us honest, painful life in a way that resonates in a very strong manner. There are times when I can't take that kind of treatment and would prefer the administrations of a noble, furry-toed hobbit.

But whatever the genre we write, I think we're all on the same team, standing next to the race track and cheering for the runners to feel, FEEL, goddamnit! I can handle being a pompom shaker.


G said...

this is beautiful, wendy.


Kt said...

I wonder what Kafka was thinking about when he said "frozen." Seems the heart can be frozen in a variety of ways. If it's locked in complacency and comfort, I suppose that's when a dose of literary fiction would be good medicine.