relatability

Posted by @ 2:12 pm on September 10th, 2009

lungs

how big an issue is relatability?  what i mean is, when you are reading something, how much of your interest in it is the direct result of relation?  i think it could be argued that relationships are what every book is about one way or another.  this means all things relatable (ie, the relations between characters, the relations between reader and book, the relations between words and ideas, etc).

i started thinking about this because i read a comment from chris higgs about how he doesn’t like lorrie moore.  the first thing i thought was “i agree” because usually when i read her work it just feels like a more professionally-written episode of “Friends.”  but then i thought, maybe that doesn’t matter, that despite her characters inhabiting worlds i don’t, maybe there is a common thread anyway.  i have this thought a lot when people talk about more acute areas of writing, like, “ethnic”, “gender” etc.  the thought is that regardless of the obvious differences, there is always a larger idea that connects everyone.  for instance, one of my favorite books is NATIVE SON.  i am not african american, i didn’t grow up decades ago, and i am not as poor as the main character.  however, i do work for people i resent, i do live on the south side of chicago, and i do seem to make decisions that ultimately deprive me of the ability to freely make other decisions.  and for me, that was one of the main messages to me in Native Son, that freedom is extremely narrow (this is something relates to anyone regardless, although, granted, Bigger’s choices came to him as the object of racial hatred).  then i read some of sean kilpatrick’s novel excerpts that blake linked.  i am citing this because this is an example of relation that doesn’t rely on “real life” characteristics.  i thought kilpatrick’s excerpts were fucking awesome.  i related to them even though i am sure some people would aruge they are “meaningless” and “fail great literature.”  there was something in the ideas and words he chose that made me feel related to them/him.  i guess what i am getting at is, relation is the primary tenet for me when i am reading and liking or disliking something.  i don’t think topic, reality, etc, make any difference.  this thinking extends to things like “plot” and other such preliminaries.  for instance, if someone describes a plot to me, it really has no consequence.  it’s more about how that type of thing is dealt with, both conceptually and linguisitically.  i guess this is an indirect response to things like “women writers”, “languagey writers” “ethnic writers” and other things like that.  i think it is more liberating to find what is common in them rather than what is different because the common elements are much more important than the minor differences.  please don’t hate me.

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