I love a good mystery, but not in the conventional sense of that word: the mystery of right behaviour, moral choice, responsible action. I’m put off by novels that pretend to answer the questions they raise. There can’t be answers – not sincere or meaningful answers – to the questions of moral action raised in a great book. A serious writer, in my mind, attempts to expose the flipside to any commonly held belief. It’s a shell game of sorts, with each shell containing – or seemingly so – the seed of truth. Point to it with anything resembling conviction or certainty and you will be proven wrong.
That being said, a novel isn’t a game. It doesn’t try to cause the reader to stumble, but in resisting an easy answer to justify a character’s choices, readers may find themselves in the confusing position of simultaneously loving and hating characters, their choices, their beliefs. For me, a novel is at its best when it brings contradiction to the surface of a character’s life, and when those contradictions are highlighted by a dramatic conflict between characters. In exposing those contradictions by the right positioning of character, setting and drama, you approach the heart of what it is to be human. There is in this world, instead of the simple black and white universe of poorly imagined fiction, an infinite variety of greys.
-- Dennis Bock –
Have a great Monday!