Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Safety of Stories

I read something the other day. No, I mean, I "read" it. It didn't just pass me by, like a half-remembered byline, or someone on the street that I thought I recognised. Opinion is like steady, unremitting drizzle, never really pausing for long enough for the landscape through which it passes to be observed in any detail. It clusters in the corners of our minds, waiting, like Godot, for a time, or even a space within the freeway of our consciously streaming interaction with the world for our own small, underpowered vehicle to find a gap in the traffic. Within all of us, there is a still, small voice asking impossible questions, like, "where is justice" when all around us we hear static and half-made sentences through shattered and distorted media headphones, crying with every syllable that it has departed, leaving a sulphurous and unpleasant odour behind. Realities are labyrinthine, complex. We seek a stationary metaphor to hold ourselves morally upright, sometimes abandoning the struggle for reality and retreating behind the more secure emotional bulwarks of fiction. Harry Potter may have influenced the political motivations of a generation - now old enough to vote. There were certainties there. Exposure to the strange, gladiatorial political arenas in "Game of Thrones" with its quicksand of changing allegiances generates a consonance more real than we know. It shines lights into places where we don't want to go, where the monsters are, and justice is a flyaway, ephemeral leaf, blown who knows where by rapidly shifting winds of change. We transpose this into present realities as the black-clad flag-wavers emerge from the shadows, their blades red with innocent blood, coming for us.
Martin Amis' newest novel supposedly helps us to see the Nazis as they really were, and makes black comedy of the Holocaust. This could be seen to be quintessentially Jewish, but it isn't, particularly in light of the blackguardly parallel to Nazism being levelled at the Israelis by the wilfully ignorant and cognitively dissonant flag-waving media junkies.
I'm not a particular fan of his work. In previous novels, the prose sometimes reads as if someone originally wrote in something like Estonian then used Google Translate for the  final version.
Even in fiction, what we read shapes our values,  threatens our security,  gives form to our perceptions. The word becomes flesh and dwells among us.

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