Fiction & 9/11

The anxiety over whether fiction is relevant after 9/11 or whether it is capable of representing a “new reality” continues. In an essay in the New York Times last week, Benjamin Kunkel prophesied that:

[F]ictional characters will no longer turn terrorist in the same numbers; imaginary indigenous terrorism reminds us too much of real foreign terror. And set against the regular hecatombs of global jihad, much fictional violence seems almost pathetically modest.

I disagree. I think novelists will in fact continue to write about the world around them, once they’ve had enough perspective on particular events. Besides, terrorism has been a part of human experience long before 9/11 and novelists from those countries affected by it have dealt with it. (I’m thinking of Algerian writers, in particular.)

Elsewhere, Jay McInerney defends fiction from those who, like Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul, consider it dead:

Naipaul essentially argues – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – that non-fiction is better suited than fiction to dealing with the big issues and capturing the way we live now. An accompanying essay, “Truth is Stronger than Fiction”, expanded on the theme, and concluded with a lament: “It’s safe to say that no novels have yet engaged with the post-September 11 era in any meaningful way.” To which we might ask, just for starters, where is the movie, or the big non-fiction tome that has done so.