Fiction and Love

Not long ago, I found myself having green tea with an old acquaintance who works in the book business. We were chatting about recently published novels—what was good, what wasn’t—when I suddenly realized that I had never heard him say he loved a book. What I mean is that he often praises some book or other, but he also tempers every bit of praise with a lot of criticism. When we parted, I was left with a lot of his opinions on current fiction, but they didn’t create in me any desire to read the books he’d mentioned.

There are so many novels I love and reread every chance I get—Coetzee’s Disgrace and Waiting for the Barbarians; Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Bluest Eye; Jose Saramago’s Blindness, etc. But of course these books are not faultless. The perfect book, like the perfect person, is a matter of theory, not reality. Perhaps, I thought, this man is afraid to love books. Love requires you to consider faults and inadequacies and to accept them, along with everything else.

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