This is something that I have been thinking about quite a lot lately, it is a phenomenon of modern literature that there is an expectation of realism, authors are obliged to create characters who behave as though they are real people with real motivations etc. and this is to facilitate the reader becoming “lost” in the work, i.e. escapism. Escapism and the desire for it are features and results of unsatisfactory realities, the reader has such a bleak reality that the only way to cope is for him to enter a more fulfilling “reality” in his headspace, and it is easier to do that if the fiction that he consumes maintains the pretense of being a sort of reality unto itself.

This ultimately serves the powers that derive benefit from his bleak existence, because if the emasculated office worker has a means to cope with his powerless and humiliating existence by living vicariously through the intimidating presence of Anton Chigurh or becoming emotionally invested in the sad life of Amir in the Kite Runner such that he doesn’t think about his own sad life or worse yet even feels blessed for his pathetic existence by thinking “well it could be worse..” then he is less likely to actually do something to change his situation. In a healthier society fiction lacks this pretense of reality because the consumers of that fiction do not need to be deluded as to the reality of the fictional work so that they can escape their lives into it, in a healthier society people do not obsess about fictional “canon” because they do not feel that their lives are out of control and that their world makes no sense, and so they don’t require a fictional world that they control and which makes sense for their minds to inhabit.

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This is not necessarily a value judgement towards all works that carry such pretense, I certainly would not say that the works of Stendhal, Hugo, Chekov, Nabokov, Steinbeck, McCarthy etc. are trash. However they do, knowingly or not, hold up a particular social order by providing their readers with a means of escapism. My opinion is definitely being influenced by Dialektik der Aufklärung and the idea of the Verfremdungseffekt and episches Theater, unlike Horkheimer, Adorno and Brecht I would not put myself on the left, and as I just said I would disagree with the Frankfurt school reading of the culture industry as incapable of producing art, something can have artistic merit and be beautiful whilst still ultimately being detrimental.

Source: reddit post


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