Asked and Answered: On The Nature of Tragedy

It might be that people are idiots or it might be that the nut jobs of QAnon have invaded the book groups on Facebook but every now and then someone will post about a popular book that has won award after award and ask how could anyone write about such subject matter and how could anyone read such a book. A couple popular targets of this are A Little Life and My Dark Vanessa. I have read neither book but I have read plenty of tragedies and books that deal in traumatic happenings. I have also been alive long enough to see what’s going on.

Books are under attack. This should not be news to anyone that has logged onto the internet or turned on a television in the past few months, but it is worth stating once again that books are under attack. We would be naive to think that the same troll farms that prop up beliefs like QAnon and other conspiracy and white supremacist groups in America wouldn’t join in the hunt.

They use the same underhanded tactics as well. The sudden banning of Maus by a Tennessee school board came as a bit of a shock to everyone, but we should have seen it coming. Go read the one star Goodreads reviews for Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. Almost none of them criticize it for being political. It is all about plot holes and the book being poorly written and this and that, but these are all thinly veiled attacks against a book that shows the horror and inhumanity that man can inflict on man. More specifically the horrors of the Holocaust. The same horrors that Maus so brilliantly lays bare.

With this type of attack it is hard to know if the books are being criticized by book snobs that only read the book equivalent of double IPAs or if they are troll farms using diversionary tactics to get less people to read a book that makes their kind look bad.

I have a feeling if I were to read A Little Life and My Dark Vanessa that it would be highly critical of a certain type of person, and it these types of people that are joining Facebook book groups to ask how anyone could write or read about such subject matter.

Whenever this discussion comes up I quote Aristotle and relay his message that we write and read about tragedy for catharsis. Either we are seeking help to get over our own trauma or want to better understand people that have suffered that trauma. Art allows us to experience lives other than our own. Viewers of art and readers of literature have stronger senses of empathy than those that are not.

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