Separating Fiction from the Author, aka the post where author Carrie Mesrobian explains that fiction is fiction
Yesterday on Twitter, I kind of lost my mind. I do that on Twitter frequently. Sometimes it’s about the problems of women’s fashion. Sometimes it’s about television shows. Sometimes it’s about sex and our cultural insanity surrounding it.
It was, I admit, a response to reading yet another review where the reader seems to conflate the depiction of any sort of discomforting or unconscionable reality (teenagers using drugs or having sex, use of the word ‘fag,’ discussion of masturbation, parents who turn a blind eye to bad behavior, people who use swear words in daily speech) with author endorsement of such reality.
Is the traffic reporter on the radio endorsing gridlock?
Is that what people expect writers to do? Explain their personal foibles and opinions and stances on a variety of topics their books may bring up? Just to hit readers with a sledgehammer prior to starting the story so they know WHAT THE AUTHOR THINKS and WHERE SHE STANDS ON THESE TOPICS and THAT SHE UNDERSTANDS THAT SMOKING POT WHILE SWIMMING IS REALLY DANGEROUS and WHAT KIND OF PARENT ARE YOU THAT YOU WOULDN’T PUT A STOP THAT KIND OF THING?
While I like the people I interact with to be moral, I don’t place such burdens on books. And I don’t know why some readers have this expectation, either.
Would it comfort those readers to know that, no, I don’t say to my kid, “Hey fuckface! Go brush your goddamn teeth so we can go smoke pot together and then talk about how having meaningless sex when you’re 15 is a great idea!” Would they like to know about all the boring evenings I spend making her do her homework and reading to her and telling her to go to bed 99 million times? Would they like to know what a boring, moral, routine life I lead? Would they like to know every bad choice I’ve ever made and how I amended or rectified those bad choices (or what daily regrets plague me if I haven’t amended or rectified them?)
(Obviously, the swearing thing is true, in my case. I’d say I’m sorry, but my father daily scolds me on this so if it comforts you, please realize I’m getting what’s coming to me for all my ‘cussing, foul-mouthed’ behavior.)
Fiction is about problems. It’s not about good decision-making. It’s about conflict and struggle and battle and terrible, terrible decisions. Sometimes people make good decisions in fiction, but there’s no requirement that they always will. You want to read about people making good decisions, you’ve got two choices:
– read a pamphlet in the waiting room of the Guidance Counselor
Better yet, if you want to understand the complexity of life, read about someone fucking things up and then trying to fix them.
Carrie Mesrobian is the author of Sex and Violence, which ended up on many best of the year lists for 2013 for it’s complex look at one young man’s struggles to heal after really screwing things up.
Filed under: Carrie Mesrobian
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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