I’ve been really loving George Saunders recently, and I ran into this interview with him and now love him even more because of his perspective:
I don’t know that it [the ending] was the right one. But I think it was the most interesting one. That’s a funny thing about writing stories. We have that illusion that we are “deciding” what to make a character do, in order to “convey our message” or something like that. But, at least in my experience, you are often more like a river-rafting guide who’s been paid a bonus to purposely steer your clients into the roughest possible water
And as a fiction writer, I pretty much say: Well, my job is to make what happens within the story convincing and accurate and compelling and believable – and if I am a decent observer of human nature and the world, all theological ideas can find a home here. That is: if I make a good simulacrum, it will accommodate many ways of conceptual thinking.
is fiction more useful for hard questions? Yes. Because fiction, as Chekov said, doesn’t have to solve problems, it just has to formulate them correctly. So a good story can answer “the question” in several contradictory ways, and just let those answers hang there, resonating beautifully—and that IS the (larger) answer: that field of contradictions. When we have to choose one or the other, and eradicate the other truths, then we start making mistakes. My sense is, the longer we can abide in a space of not-knowing—or letting the many truths hang there—the better off we are. If, eventually, we have to act (as, of course, we sometimes do) that action will be a better action for the longer period of waiting-to-act. The longer we abide in ambiguity, the wiser we get.
This is the 50th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here.