The Field of Literary Fiction – The Washington Post

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In his vaguely reasoned review, “Kingsolver’s eco-novel charts unique territory” [Style, Oct. 31], post-fiction editor Ron Charles dismissed TC Boyle, Margaret Atwood and myself as politicized writers “preaching to the overheated choir” in novels that deal with climate change and other environmental issues; he awkwardly joked about “pushing the last polar bear off his melting ice floe” to avoid such books. Am I to doubt that Charles would assert that novels have nothing to do with socio-political issues? Is Hurricane Sandy just “political” for the thousands of people who lost their homes or businesses, for the families of the dead?

The “realm of environmental fiction,” as Charles called it, is little “about reforming recalcitrant consumers or making good liberals even more pious about carpooling.” Climate change and extinction are issues of torment and responsibility, both individual and collective. These are matters of life and death and meaning; they are therefore questions of art. The transformation of our world and our lives by fossil fuel cultivation involves the personal suffering of many real humans (and other animals), not just “pious” liberals and carpoolers. The domain of “environmental” and literary fiction is human experience, suffering, promise and imagination.

Lydia Millettuson

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