Monday, June 26, 2017

The Politics of Politics In Stories

On this one writing group, the site administrator posted his attempt as writing called "Lamentations of a Liberal Woman," which right there is about enough get my hackles up.  Then there's stuff like this:
“I went to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to help with vote recounts. We counted absentee ballots, military ballots, and ballots that somehow didn’t get counted in county offices on election night. The more we looked, the more votes for Trump showed up. Except for Detroit. In Detroit it seemed like more people voted for Hillary than were registered to vote. Of course we didn’t report that. That started to get me disillusioned with the system. It’s hip to make fun of right wing talk radio accusing Democrats of voter fraud, but when you see that it’s true you wander how much you helped this fraud be perpetrated on the American public.”

“The recounts were shut down and then I went to organize “grassroots protests”.” She again used air fingers quotes. “When the protests turned violent I bailed. I was at a protest where we blocked a bridge, and an ambulance could not get through and was stuck in traffic. The patient died because they couldn’t get him to the hospital. I was on a bullhorn telling people to let the ambulance through but I was told to shut up. When people backing type of action wanted to ramp things up I quit. I was in Cincinnati Wednesday. Thursday morning I decided to bug out of the urban protest scene, started driving to where there are less towns and today my car was tracked down and repossessed this morning. Here I am.”

So this "liberal" woman meets these humble rural folk and five minutes later she's confessing all these dirty little secrets about the liberal world.  And none of this sounds like realistic dialog or anything a "liberal" woman would say.  It's obviously the author speaking, not the character, in a series of bullet points lifted from Fox "News" or Breitbart.

I'm not going to say you can't have political books.  I've read political novels like Primary Colors, House of Cards, and Boomsday.  The one thing I can say about all of them is after reading them I couldn't tell you much about the author's personal politics.  The first because it was written under "Anonymous" (later revealed as magazine writer Joe Klein) and in all cases because the authors did a good job of not too strongly painting either side as good or evil.  They didn't have their characters speak in campaign slogans or bullet points.  In other words, they were morally nuanced (often cynical) novels which is more or less the real world.

Another example I brought up was Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.  Wolfe does a good job of making everyone look bad from the "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street to the opportunistic district attorney and liberal black advocacy group who try to take advantage of a white broker killing a young black man for their own ends.  Which if you're going to write a political novel that's the way to be even-handed:  make everyone look equally terrible.  Then no one can accuse you of being too strongly on one side or another.

Of course someone said, Well if it were a liberal writer you wouldn't say anything.  Except I did just that in a review in 2012 for John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River:
I saw that you described the book as a "political novel" but I failed to see anything political about it. Ketchum rants about George W Bush and Danny meets a woman who allows him to knock her up so he can avoid Vietnam but those are the only "political" elements that I could make out in all of this. Really the criticism of Bush on September 11th struck me as writing in hindsight. I'm not a Bush lover by far but there seemed nothing original or fresh about Ketchum's rants. They didn't add anything and they certainly didn't open my mind to any new insights about the situation.
So like those books I mentioned I'm pretty even-handed too.  Like I told the author of that first piece, if you want to write a manifesto, write a manifesto; if you want to write a story, write a story.  Confusing the two is what gets authors in trouble.  It's why I wouldn't even pick up fiction by Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh; none of them are noted for being very subtle.

But then I've been accused of being too political in a story, though I still couldn't tell you why.😖

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't read political fiction from either side. Just not interested. Reading is more of an escape from reality for me.



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