April 17th, 2006


Literature - a vague stab at understanding

One of the eternal free-floating arguments that can be guaranteed to pop up from time to time, along with "What does it all mean?" and "Freedom - how much is too much?" is the question "But is it Literature?" - a question that I've mostly managed to ignore except when it's pejoratively directed towards SF (with the implicit assumption that it is impossible to be both science fiction and literature at the same time).

My main reason for ignoring it has been that I haven't had any internal guide as to what 'Literature' was - as to whether there even _was_ a difference between high and low art, or whether the two terms were merely handy ways for critics to declare that their lofty tastes were implicitly superior to the tastes of the hoi polloi.

And then, in a throw away line at today's panel "Is the Centre of Science Fiction at its Margins?" (How have women's, queer and black voices reshaped our ideas of what science fiction is) Geoff Ryman summed it up perfectly when he said "Entertainment leaves the reader innocent."

And that, to me, was suddenly 'it'.  One can read any number of entertaining books (or watch any number of entertaining movies/TV shows) and still be left innocent - you've done nothing more than go "Wheeeee!" for an hour or two, frightened and exhilarated as if you'd just ridden the roller-coaster at Disney-World.  But literature goes further than that - it educates and enlightens.  It strips away our preconceptions, it illuminates our fantasies, it holds up a mirror and shows us what really look like.

Which isn't to say that there's anything wrong with excitement and adventure and really wild things; sometimes I just want to be entertained.  But I get something more from literature - I get a definite something from a book like (for instance) We Need to Talk About Kevin or Air that I don't get (for instance) from any number of other books - a feeling of resonance and of uncovering something about the human condition in general and myself in particular.

This is not true.

No.  Not At All.

(in other news, I'm now safely returned from EasterCon, where I managed without web access perfectly well for 4 days.  Apart from one small 4 minute blip where I discovered that the hotel were willing to charge 9p a minute for a single IE3 window that ran at a snail's pace)

Feelings of Overwhelmedness (having been written on Saturday Night at EasterCon)

Just escaped the party downstairs having lasted a record...half an hour.  Three hundred people in one place, all talking at once was just too much for me.

I've never, on a related note, been able to understand how people can talk at nightclubs - I can't pick out individual words easily over the noise and I'm left shouting small-talk, a combination of unlikable things that  does nothing for me.

My ideal gathering has between 6 and 15 people - enough for a few conversations to go on at once, and even for two different rooms to develop, but not so many that it stop feeling cozy.

I'm sure I could just join in conversations, but I feel like I'd be intruding - even more out of place than I usually feel.  Ironic really, feeling out of place in a convention of geeks.

*pause for an hour aaaaaand*

Lilian arrived back in the room to get changed, and I decided to brave the downstairs again.  Which turned out to be a good plan.  I found some people I liked (Mike, Ann, Kari, Phil, and miscellaneous others) lurking in an out of the way place, and engaged them in amusing conversation.  And because there was less people in this particular corner and it was slightly isolated from the noise, I relaxed more and enjoyed it.  Not only that, but I've never really felt I engaged with Kari/Phil before, but I actually felt included, which was nice.

And then at ten past midnight I decided to go to bed, because I was actually tired, not just to flee the surfeit of people.  Which makes a delightful change where parties are concerned.  I'll try to remember this next time I'm feeling nervous and wanting to abandon a party early.  Not that I'm likely to ever actually become an extrovert, but I might learn to enjoy it a bit more,and I might even make a few more friends.

*postscript - Sunday morning*
Bumped into Kari at breakfast, who wanted my assurance that I would still come to conventions once Lilian had gone to Winchester, which cheered me up no end.