I have a confession to make: I don’t like literature. Literature is…well, a little too depressing for me. I prefer stories with hope. I like a happy (not perfect) ending—what Mary Buckham (WriterUniv.com) refers to as the “high five” moment at the end of the story. She also gives one of the simplest explanations I’ve heard for the difference between literature and commercial fiction.
Literature, she says, is based on the belief that mankind can’t change. We can only seek to understand ourselves better. Commercial fiction, however, operates on the belief that mankind can change. I suppose that’s where my hope factor comes in. It’s too depressing to think that this moment—my current circumstances and state of existence—is as good as it gets. I’m stuck with all my flaws.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe literature is important. We need to understand ourselves better—why we do the things we do—but I also believe we need to take the next step and learn from what we’ve done. I think that’s why I’m drawn to commercial fiction. As a character learns and grows and changes (hopefully for the better), I carry the hope that I can change too.
One of my favorite quotes is from GK Chesterton: “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” I couldn’t agree more. Hope is a necessity for me.
So thank you, Literature. Well done. You’re a true art form with a noble purpose. But I think I’ll stick with my happy endings for now.
What about you? Is fiction a luxury or a necessity for you?
©2013 Kim Vandel