Sunday, July 06, 2008

Melville on Realism

Well, perhaps not Melville: at best we can say this is what is written by the narrator of The Confidence-Man. Whether it's Melville or simply Melville's narrator is not the point, however:

"Strange, that in a work of amusement, this severe fidelity to real life should be exacted by any one, who, by taking up such a work, sufficiently shows that he is not unwilling to drop real life, and turn, for a time, to something different. Yes, it is, indeed, strange that any one should clamour for the thing he is weary of; that any one, who, for any cause, finds real life dull, should yet demand of him who is to divert his attention from it, that he should be true to that dullness."

Though I agree with the dismissal of realism (a work's realism or lack thereof doesn't terribly concern me as a reader), I don't necessarily think we all turn to literature just to "drop real life" in favor of "amusement." We can turn to literature for a whole host of reasons, including, in my opinion, a deeper engagement with the world, not an escape from it. But I've also never forgotten that I read for pleasure, for amusement, for entertainment. What brings me pleasure in literature is of course not the same thing that brings another person pleasure in literature (a point that should be obvious, but I find too many people try to make their tastes into something other than their tastes). I read for many reasons, but not the least is that I want to enjoy myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment