The pulp fiction writer – absolved of guilt.

Novels do give glimpses of other lives, other cultures, but readers of fiction need to bear in mind that that they are reading fiction. Novelists all have personal views, but most try to remain honest to their genre and their art. To prejudice a character with one’s socio-political views is self-defeating. Many of my students start their novels with a desire to express some kind of social exposure through their novels, but that’s a very sticky premise on which to base a career, especially when the resounding cry to arms is not reflected by their (present) level of skill. Fiction is fiction. Though the backdrop should be believable within its own boundaries, it shouldn’t be there to teach – which, largely, it doesn’t. Even if a reader walks away from a novel with tears in the eye (try ‘The Other Hand’ by Chris Cleave’), what does it truly change? Very little, in fact. Tears can be brought to the eye by fantasy, dystopian novels, or romantic sagas. That’s down to the skill of the writer. It’s all fiction. The truth is, writers, including those writing literary or non-fiction books, mostly hope to make money from their writing.  Even those who are on some kind of a social or ecological rampage are scarcely refusing the income they derive from their fiction. So where, exactly, is the elitism rooted? Some professionals are, themselves, able to write books less interesting than the average critique, despite the possible perfection of their punctuation. Though they might have a usefully cornered market of hopeful students, all like making money from their work, whether it funds the next meal, or funds a foreign holiday or a new sofa. It’s human nature.  End where we began. Novels are largely for escapism, and there should be no shame in that.

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