Friday 12 July 2013

What Good is a Book?

The real world is often a violent and ugly place. One only has to watch the television news or read the daily papers to know just how destructive humanity can be to each other and to the other species that share our world with us.

Euripides, (c. 480 – 406 BC) one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens,  said that great writers don't flinch from reality. I agree, but do today’s writers have to absolutely deny the possibility that humanity has the potential to create a better reality?

Instead of reflecting a cruel world without hope, why can't we reflect the real world – as harsh as it is – but reflect it through a more positive lens that offers ordinary people the hope that, despite their flawed humanity, they’re able to make a difference?  

So many brilliant writers show things exactly as they are, through a collective vision of a dystopia where crime and murder is rampant, and sex and money are the only gods worth worshipping. And there are writers who only show a perfect ShangriLa, where there is no pain and suffering.

I want to be the kind of writer who shows the world as it can be: very harsh and cruel indeed, but a world in which we can use our free will to make different choices and make it a better place.

As writers we have the divine gift of imagination. Can we use that gift to create worlds that inspire humanity to reach for a different outcome? Every person, on a small scale, can be a Mandela or a de Klerk – two Nobel Peace Prize winners who could both have stayed stuck in their pasts, but who each made a conscious choice to  walk a different path and, in so doing,  made a better world.

Quincy Jones on his classic album "I Heard That" asks “What Good is a Song?” …   "What good all the lyrics if they can't soothe you, if they can't ease a troubled mind. What good is a song if it can't inspire, if it has no message to bring? If a song cannot send you higher, then it's not good enough to sing."

I say: if a book cannot send you higher, then it’s not good enough to write.