I am inclined to disagree with this. Some pretty great literature comes out of joy. And I don’t mind literature that’s distancing, not designed to ensare you but rather to trouble your mind. If she changed ‘the only fiction worth reading’ to ‘my favourite fiction to read’, then I’d be all over this.
I respect your challenges to this quote! I’m trying to think of great literature that comes out of joy though. Can you give me some examples. I heard Martin Amis say, (quoting someone else), alas I don’t know who: Happiness writes white, i.e. it doesn’t show up on the page. I must admit, I want to be ensnared.
Just catching up with my backlog. She does say, Jane, “Perhaps” so there’s an out. I like your challenge, and I’m inclined to agree with you. But perhaps some of this is all about definition. What does she mean – or do we understand by – “ensnare”. I think some literature ensnares my mind, while others ensnare my heart. And I quite like both. Some books that really ensnared my heart are Rohinton Mistry’s A fine balance, Shirley Hazzard’s The transit of Venus and Elizabeth Harrower’s The watchtower. Many dystopian novels – like the ones you both have written – ensnare and/or trouble my mind.
But, surely we can write out of joy too. I hate the notion that we can’t. I’m trying to think of some though. But surely some of the great love poems have come out of joy, for a start?
Good questions Sue. For me to be ensnared is to have a strong response to something, but as you say, you can be ensnared in different ways. I think If I am engaged only with the mind, that doesn’t feel like ensnarement to me. I have to also have my heart captured. I haven’t read any of the three books you list. I find Hazzard impenetrable. I keep hearing about The Harrower – I will get there eventually.
I went onto Goodreads to see if I could find a book that was borne out of joy. I think there are books that contain joy, but they also need to have some conflict in order for us to be intrigued. It’s quite bland just hearing about how wonderful something is, don’t you think?
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