31 January 2012

Writing with Purpose on Topical Tuesday

I'm on a bit of a blog sabbatical but happy to break it up with a post here where the Burrowers hang out! As it is, I've been thinking a bit about something that could be topical. I suppose I've been thinking about some news stories of the day and what they might mean. I've also been reading the fantastic Barbara Kingsolver and her last novel 'The Lacuna'. In Kingsolver's astounding prose - history begins to shimmer and shine - and this book is about the how of history. In this novel a boy is reared in a series of unstable but interesting environments - both in Mexico and the United States. He becomes part of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's household and is there when they give refuge to Trotsky. The story moves from Mexico City to the United States and the man, Harrison Shepherd's evolvement as an author.  I don't want to get all deconstructionist on you but this is a masterful work and one of the astounding stories in it is how public opinion is formed and influenced by the media and by its own needs.
Which brings me to the topic of topical Tuesday.
If we are humans who wish to enrich the world and who also write - how might we infuse our work without it becoming pendantic, scolding or just plain tedious? I suppose we might look to Kingsolver for some aid with that. All of her novels (and her essays and non-fiction) have dealt with issues of social injustice, of misguided do-gooders and the wavering flicker of human's desire to wake up to what is, and take responsibility for changing that which promotes injustice. She did it with Bean Trees, with The Poisonwood Bible and she has done it in The Lacuna  in a compelling way. Not once have I felt talked down to or scolded - no, I've become inspired to look at how this portrayal of life from the 30's to the 50's  can be mirrored in our society today.
I know others can do this as well - Atwood's The Handmaiden's Tale, is a cautionary story of what could happen should fundamentalists of any stripe gain accendency. Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American, showed us how destructive unexamined good intentions can be. Annie Proulx's That Old Ace in the Hole seduced many into examining the complexities of industrial farming. None of them touted these as their themes, for had they we might have yawned, nay, would have yawned and turned away.
How about you? What do you read or write that shines a light on the wounded systems of thinking that might prevail in our world? Do you know authors that enlighten us to social injustice without condescending or hammering?

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - You really ask an important question here about addressing social injustices in writing. I think a lot of writers do that, and they can do so without being heavy-handed. It takes a deft hand, though. Of course, everyone's definition of "too heavy a hand" is different...

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I think it's hard not to be heavy-handed when we're covering those kinds of topics. "The Jungle" by Sinclair Lewis comes to mind, but it was pretty heavy-handed (great book, though.)

Shaharizan Perez said...

Lately, I've been writing lesson plans. They're not novels but they are a change in thinking when it comes to pedagogy. Because I believe all kids can learn regardless of disability, I have tiered my lessons to reach the low level, midlevel and high level learner. It's a lot of preparation but very rewarding when the light bulbs go off and kids get the concepts. :D