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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Politics and the Writer of Fiction

Fiction and politics rarely cross. Recently we had the President read Franzen's latest novel but of course that was it, nobody knows if he even finished the book. Then we have the novels from people who worked for candidates and write thinly disguised accounts of their days in the White House. Then we have people who write fiction but comment on current events in blogs, essays, pieces for magazines. That would be myself. It is a curious thing to write about current events then cross back into the land of fiction. Sort of like traveling to two different countries.

Writers do become political as time passes. It happens with singers and actors. It seems the canvas of "their art" just isn't enough and we even see some become President. Activist musicians are very familiar who use their fame to push causes they believe in. That old John Mellancamp lyric comes to mind, "you got to stand for something, or you're going to fall for anything." This doesn't seem like a big jump for people who fill stadiums routinely. But for the writer of fiction hidden behind a book, commenting on politics can be good and bad. Especially when times become turbulent and fiction suddenly feels irrelevant.

You really have a choice. Say nothing about the time you live in except through your fiction or comment directly and see where you end up. Certainly the Internet has empowered more writers to be part of the larger world directly. There weren't too many avenues for a writer to become political before. You had to just squirrel away and work on your books and make your views known through your characters or not. Some of us cannot help ourselves and feel commenting on our time a duty. Others, feel politics and related issues are not for the writer of fiction. Certainly one would like to live on one track, but that world vanished a long time ago.

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Books by William Hazelgrove