George Saunders on Fiction

The wonderful thing about fiction: the meaning of a story is contained in the way it unscrolls, in the experience the reader has, phrase by phrase. Everything else—the analysis we tend to feel the need to do—is reductive (fun, but reductive). The reading experience, when you think about it, is so complex and lovely and hard to describe: ideas come up and are complicated and refined by the next beat; moral notions arise and are challenged; the language surprises; parallel images from our own life are continually invoked; questions that, in our everyday mode, we’d be more simply opinionated about are endorsed and negated and complicated. All this happens at once, and in a granulated way that’s impossible to describe. I think it’s important to be respectful of how mysterious the whole deal is: a person being moved by a story another person made up. It’s weird but it happens and it can really change people’s lives. I think fiction at its best can serve as a moment of induced bafflement that calls into question our usual relation to things and reminds us that our minds, as nice as they are, aren’t necessarily up to the task of living, and shouldn’t get cocky. ~ George Saunders

 

 

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