Thursday, 16 August 2012

Reality in Fiction

I'm probably alone in this, but I find it disturbing when a story is written as though it were a biography.  There is so much authority given to the characters and their actions when the story is apparently real.  Reading The Cat's Table this week, I was struck by this very strongly - all the events and characters are written with the "colour" of memoir, as stated by the author.  So I asked myself - do people really behave, think, act like this?  Maybe.  Authors are often very good at reading people, and transcribing what they see around them into the characters they create.  But do we put too much faith into this reinterpretation of people, so that we start to read art into reality as well.  I suppose this is one of those all time questions - how much does art influence life and how much does is life reflected in art.  I suppose I don't like to be so subtly influenced in my understanding - I want things real or not real.
Still, if you're looking for something like The Cat's Table, that is fictional but 'real' in its expression, choose Biographical Fiction on askmeaboutbooks.co.uk

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Snuff - Terry Pratchett

You know, I've always loved Terry Pratchett books - there's something wonderfully mind bending about them, and at the same time entertaining.  I've just finished reading Snuff, though, and I think this time Mr Pratchett has surpassed himself!  For those who know anything about the Discworld novels, this one features Commander Sam Vines of the Watch who is an interesting character if only for his integrity in the face of chaos and corruption.  I think the thing I like best about this book, however, is the social commentary - everyone should be treated as 'humans' however inhuman they maybe (because of course there are trolls and dwarfs and goblins galore in Discworld stories!).  He addresses prejudice, slavery, persecution, corruption and class structure!  It's very gently done, but it does challenge your concepts of the worth and value of people, and even the worst characters are treated with a generosity that allows you to understand their motives, however much you might despise their actions.  Terry Pratchett doesn't gloss over the basic flaws in his characters, in fact, he draws those things out to be looked at closely, and in that is a freedom to understand yourself and others.
It's one of the great things about Fantasy, I think.  You can talk about real people and real situations in a place and time totally removed from the norm, meaning that you can address issues and ideas that might be too complicated in any other setting.
Find Snuff on askmeaboutbooks.co.uk choosing 'social commentary' as the main theme.  There will be some very different suggestions that come up as well!