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Closing the Gap: Fiction and Reality

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The news has been horrifying and addictive this week, with catastrophe piled on catastrophe, to a degree that––if I had read this in a book or seen it in a movie–I’d be protesting that it was just too unlikely, too far-fetched.
But, topics for novels get ripped from the headlines all the time. Or real-life events remind you of fiction (whether “believable” or not) that you’ve read but never expected to see. Or real life comes up with an event so unbelievable that it stretches you sense of reality.
Hmm … I can’t quite come up with an outright question to ask, but thinking about the theory of fiction and how it can affect and be affected by real world events can act as a buffer between the horrific events on the news and having to actually face that horror. So … what happens when the line between fiction and reality becomes all-too slim? Discuss!

Natural catastrophe and nuclear crisis in Japan have made me very sad. Tears well up my eyes when I see the tsunami devoured the entire coastal town and the devastation afterward. Houses reduced to debris. Cars piled up on the few buildings that are still standing. Families shattered. It is during the most excruciating pain and irrevocable disaster that human virtue and ugliness manifest in the most bare and untainted form. The calm and meekness of the Japanese people are both commendable and surreal. If there is fright and anxiety, they keep to themselves seamlessly. The Japanese people line up outside grocery stores in militant order that is rarely seen anywhere. Neither there is riot nor looting. Everyone keeps the own station, weathering the crisis. It almost resembles the peculiar and extraordinary miasma that Jose Saramago situates his ordinary characters. A disaster runs its natural course and the characters have to survive serious aftermath piled on one another. The Japanese people have demonstrated kindred spirit in human beings, one that partially roots in their religious belief and partially in their highly refined culture. The people are unified, which, in times of troubles and crises, is a huge advantage. The Japanese are resourceful, innovative and disciplined people with a great sense of national pride. This psyche is a result of inveterate education passing on from generation to generation. The civility with which they show to weather the disaster is perfect evidence of such national pride. In face of adversity, they have not tossed morality out of the window. Fiction is what exposes these inner virtues (or the lack of virtues) because we can be so blinded by who we really are, almost instantly blurring what we do not like to confront. Americans like to give the impression that they are very liberal and tolerant of racial and sexual differences, but the national psyche is one that is very hypothetical. When it comes to gay issues, it prefers to hush-hush about them like shoving leaves under the mat. Hypocrisies are what fiction and literature expose because reality doesn’t want to confront the dirt. With all the hush-hush double-standard policies, the bipartisan lies, America is not even close to a homogeneous nation that Japan is.

9 Responses

  1. Very good and heartfelt post! Thank you for sharing those thoughts with us!

    • My heart is very heavy watching the aftermaths and nuclear crisis. At least they have implemented a new power line that will hopefully jumpstart the cooling system inside the nuclear reactors.

  2. The interesting thing about books is that they allow the reader to get inside the characters’ heads, which sometimes tell a very different story to what they say and do.

  3. Great post. America is so different from Japan in so many ways, it’s very difficult to compare the two. Completely different histories, cultures, etc. Diversity and homogenity each have their consequences, their pros and cons.

    • I know it’s unfair to make the comparison consider the culture is totally different. Japanese culture is very private, and as we see in many contemporary fictional works, people tend to wallow in their despair and misery. Of the Japanese people I know, even if they harbor a view that is opposing to the government, they tend to keep it at bay. They are very obedient people, which comes in handy during a disaster as severe the scale as the recent earthquake, because obedience to emergency guidelines increase their chance of survival.

  4. I’ve been sad over the situation in Japan myself. I’ve not been able to immerse myself into my reading and just feel a bit scattered and overwhelmed.

    It’s as if an entire piece of the world was just destroyed and cast aside and the way the people have responded…with dignity and patience… it would be very different if such a thing happened here in the US. Their quiet acceptance saddens me too.

    I don’t think any author or director could have depicted such a disaster in their work.

    • Maybe for as long as the the Japanese people have received their breath, they have to live with threat of earthquakes. This has become second nature that they have to accept with meekness and quietude.

  5. The situation in Japan is very sad. Oddly enough, I used my background in nuclear power awhile back to write a novel featuring the same initiating event that the Japanese had to deal with (known as a “station blackout”.) Rad Decision is avaiable free online – just Google it. It’s been helpful to readers in understanding the situation.

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