"My own feeling is that writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable."--Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners
I wonder if we couldn't expand that just a bit from writers whose origin is Christ out toward those who have on a gut level a religious sense that has not yet been numbed by the distractions of the current cultural climate.
Having recently completed Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, I'm not prepared to say that he writes by the light of Christ, except maybe as Christianity has filtered through his mid-western upbringing. What I can say is that I believe he has retained a sense of the grotesque, of the absurd. He knows that each of his characters in this story is deeply flawed and desperately in need of saving from themselves and desperately afraid of living. He also knows that there something wrong their search for happiness.
|Don't let this happen to you.|
But this absurd desperation isn't just relegated to people who fly off to Lithuania in some "zany" attempt to defraud American investors, as one of the main characters does in this novel. We do it in our everyday lives. Addicts have this perverse obsession to seek out this elusive happiness in their substance. I often think that addicts as well as artists are the most sensitive people in the world. Why else would they wreck themselves to the point of oblivion or beyond, if not because they feel so much?
The good writer or artist doesn't give us any easy answers, but instead prompts us to ask questions. What makes me happy? Am I happy? What is the meaning of my life? For what or whom do I live? Because if we can't ask ourselves these questions, then we can't see the strangeness of life.
This isn't just the duty of fiction, but of ALL art. If we are not prompted to ask the deeper questions, then we become inured to injustice. Bread and circuses satisfy us while death creeps ever closer.