Okay, I Lied

Having bragged/whined/self-aggrandized my getting to work on a Saturday at the end of the last post, I immediately thought, "Wait! The second half of Zadie Smith's essay was supposed to go up today!" And indeed it has, and is here. It's much too rich to unpack now, because I do need to work, but there was one line that stood out for me in relation to that work: "Fiction confronts you with the awesome fact that you are not the only real thing in this world."

This articulated for me exactly why I love Lisa Yee's "Millie trilly" so much -- because you are first drawn into Millicent's viewpoint, and you think her perspective on events is the definitive account, the only real thing in the world; then you read Stanford's viewpoint, and you realize how much you missed when you were reading Millie's POV -- how much of his pain and sensitivity she was unable or unwilling to see or admit, or simply didn't know. And then you read Emily's take on things and you realize how much both Millicent and Stanford underestimate her according to their particular tastes and needs: Millicent sees her as unintelligent and has to learn to appreciate her emotionalism and heart, while Stanford sees her as the perfect girl and has to come to accept her complications. And of course Emily has a whole journey of her own with her parents, recognizing these same limits and possibilities. Each book, read in concert with the others, reminds us how limited our viewpoints are and becomes an argument for greater empathy toward us all. Quoting Smith again: "Both the writer and the reader must undergo an ethical expansion -- allow me to call it an expansion of the heart -- in order to comprehend the human otherness that fiction confronts them with. . . . That writing and reading should be such difficult arts reminds us of how frequently our own subjectivity fails us. We do not know people as we think we know them. The world is not only as we say it is." And great fiction, like Lisa's, reminds us of that every day.