He very often wept in church. Living up the Moyea with plenty of small chores to distract him, he forgot he was a sad man. When the hymns began, he remembered.
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Today is grey and cold and, unseasonably, snowing, and I am sadder than I ought to be about various things of no consequence. I have had some version of this piece sitting on my desktop for months. I hover the mouse over the “publish” button and then I move it away again. I wanted to tell you about something else instead, like how last night I told my friend over the phone you can never admit in public that you find Infinite Jest boring, because people just think you are too stupid to get it, and then this afternoon on the train I saw a man who looked exactly like David Foster Wallace, and it seemed like a sign, but of what I don’t know. I don’t want to write about rape anymore. But here we are.
Trigger Warning - The Rumpus.net
This is from an essay by Sarah McCarry appearing today on the Rumpus. It is catalyzed by the slut-shaming reviews that have met Uses for Boys, a novel by my gf.
And it is, to my mind, what is best about her book.
Fiction should put us in uncomfortable positions, should show us the consequences of choices we didn’t make, should challenge our world views.
The reviews that Sarah quotes, but doesn’t link, to demonstrate the way this book made people uncomforable.
But I see the same discomfort in our responses (certainly in my responses) to those same comments. And then I think: is the job of fiction done when a reader closes the book? Is fiction really a revelation?
I don’t think so. I think change happens because we take our assumptions into the world and test them. That’s what those slut-shaming reviews do. And maybe the change, the real opening up, happens in the call-and-response of reviews on Good Reads or in essays like Sarah’s.
It happens because fiction doesn’t just give us a way to imagine a life different then ours. It motivates us to talk about our differences.