• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    Matthew on [836] The Girl on the Train…
    amaryllisturman on [836] The Girl on the Train…
    Andrea on [829] Inferno – Dan…
    Matthew on [825] Paradise Lost -John…
    Anokatony on [825] Paradise Lost -John…
    Matthew on The King’s English Books…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 997,577 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,727 other followers

“Should Literature Be Useful?”

1book

“Americans have always felt uncomfortable about any cultural activity that does not lead to concrete results.” Lee Siegel comments in an article titled Should Literature Be Useful? in the New Yorker. He responds to two recent studies have concluded that serious literary fiction makes people more empathetic. Reading fiction is good, according to the studies, because it makes you a more effective social agent. I’m not in the jurisdiction to judge whether this claim is valid or not, but fiction has elevated my cultural awareness. My current read, A Dry White Season by André Brink, is a powerful indictment of the racial injustice in 1970s South Africa. It is a chilling glimpse into the inner sanctum of the South African ruling class. The last book I read, Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon, evokes a city that has been magnet for spies because of Turkey’s neutral pose. It was one of those places where Germans and Russians and British could actually meet in somebody’s drawing room—all during the war. It was, in essence, all a kind of Casablanca. But in the novel that time is coming to an end. Fiction’s usefulness to me is its freedom—it unfolds through your imagination in interconnected layers of meaning that is unique in individuals.

2 Responses

  1. I wonder less about the study results than about the claim that Americans are uncomfortable about a “cultural activity” that does not produce results, given the amount of crap television we watch!

  2. I read for fun, sometimes for obligation but I do agree that reading fiction or nonfiction too, educates you and makes you think. Maybe fiction does that better because people will criticize or ignore nonfiction that doesn’t support their own biases. But I think any time you listen to someone else, you learn something. But it’s also fine, to, you know, read crap mysteries now and then- or watch TV!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: