Where are the writers who seek artistic authenticity in poverty?

Fiction must be aware of the income level of its characters because wealthy characters can buy and do more stuff, like fly helicopters, travel the world, wear expensive clothing, and jump into pools full of Jell-O. Fiction loves wealth because it gives the reader a rare glimpse into an unseen world.

Robert McCrum asks where are the writers “who seek artistic authenticity in poverty?”

Prices are collapsing, and the winds of austerity whistle around the world. But writers show no sign of exploring deprivation or exigency.

It used not to be this way. I’ve been reading a new book about Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Frederick Turner’s Renegade identifies the obsessive way in which Miller, like several writers of his generation, sought artistic authenticity in deprivation, poverty and insufficiency…

Where are the nomads now? Today, if a writer gets his or her shoes dirty, it’s as likely to be crossing a muddy field at the Hay festival, or getting caught in a tropical downpour in Galle or Jaipur. Whatever happened to the avant garde?

British references aside, I like his question. I don’t have an answer, but if someone does, I’d like to know. Or maybe an argument against his claim.

Poverty, at a surface level, seems to constrain and constrict the plot. You have to get close to dirt because all poverty is dirty. And you can’t drink the tap water and you have to take public transportation or ride a bike if your character is street smart enough to steal one and not get caught. And you always smell. And even though you don’t have much money drugs are easy to come by. And everyone is selling their bodies. And there is lots of stinky sweaty sex scenes. Because poor people don’t shower but hump like rabbits and can’t afford birth control so there’s always kids popping out.

Blimey, as the British say.

A Manifesto for the Simple Scribe – Tim Radford’s 25 Commandments for Journalists

9. So if an issue is tangled like a plate of spaghetti, then regard your story as just one strand of spaghetti, carefully drawn from the whole. Ideally with the oil, garlic and tomato sauce adhering to it. The reader will be grateful for being given the simple part, not the complicated whole. That is because (a) the reader knows life is complicated, but is grateful to have at least one strand explained clearly, and (b) because nobody ever reads stories that say “What follows is inexplicably complicated …”

25. Writers have a responsibility, not just in law. So aim for the truth. If that’s elusive, and it often is, at least aim for fairness, the awareness that there is always another side to the story. Beware of all claims to objectivity. This one is the dodgiest of all…

(via the Guardian)

The Southwest Community Connection Faith Forum Update

Since I don’t get the chance to pick up a copy of Christian News Northwest anymore I have to switch my local newspaper update to The Southwest Community Connection. I want to point out the Faith Forum articles in the October and November issues.

October featured Scott Kolbet, the pastoral associate at St. John Fisher Catholic Church. He talked about the word mercy and its Latin root misercordia which means “taking the misery of others into one’s own heart.”  Kolbet writes, “A merciful God takes our miseries into his heart. If we are merciful, we are taking the miseries of others into our hearts…It is about God being present in my life and taking my life, my miseries and my joys into himself.” 

On the complete opposite spectrum, the November issue featured Andrea Furber, a certified Pranic Healer, who talked about moving our hands in long circular motions and “removing energetic blockages that are hindering the flow of fresh, clean energy into the energy field of the person who came for healing. This fresh energy allows the body to do more rapidly what it always does–heal itself.”

I would much rather have the mercy of a loving God then me waving my hands around trying to heal myself. What about you?