Communicator (communicator) wrote,

The good end happily and the bad unhappily: that's what fiction means

There's an interesting post here from Nick Mamatas about his experience of talking about his satirical fantasy book 'Under My Roof' to a class of adult English students (alas, I am not clear what level of qualification).

The class was absolutely scandalized by my work. Indeed, about half the questions asked had, as a subtext, "How dare you write this book!" I was asked several times if I didn't think that a kid might read the book and build a bomb or become a racist or anti-American. Often, I was asked questions structured like this: "In the book you call poor people sad fuckers. Isn't that anti-poor?" And I'd explain that in the book a character calls some poor people he encounters sad fuckers, and that is different from me saying that of all poor people. Then the next question would be, "In the book, you say that Muslims are terrorists..." and then "In your book, you say that soldiers are dumb..."

People do this quite a lot with books don't they. I see a lot of criticisms of Harry Potter which quote statements made by the embodiment of evil (Voldemort) as if they were JK Rowling's personal opinions that she was advocating.

And in the comments another writer describes discussing a fantasy book she wrote with a book group of professional women.

One woman, a lawyer, started off by saying, "Well, I had some questions. [pages through book] Did you ever describe Raz? Did you tell what he does for a living?" My sister-in-law and one other group member pointed out the description and the discussion of what he does on an early page. The lawyer looked flustered. "But . . . well . . . I didn't understand." What's not to understand? Which word didn't you understand? "Well . . . you say here that magic is a profession and it isn't."

It's like the concept of fiction has been eroded. I do think it's possible to criticise a book for its moral or political implications - why not. But finding an advocate for a position in a book doesn't mean the author is that advocate. And it worries me that the spread of fundamentalism might be destroying people's understanding of non-literal writing.
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