Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

On the surface, this book, a nonfiction account of the consistent US policy of non-interference when it comes to genocide in other countries, has little to do with writing fiction. But as I was reading I kept thinking wow, everyone should read this book. Now normally I don't fall prey to such hyperbole, but it was eye-opening to see the repeated pattern of US passivity until and sometimes beyond the last minute, and it was equally eye-opening to realize the government often used the public (and our lack of out-cry) as an excuse not to act. Anyway... that thought--everyone should read this book--led me to wonder if there was a work of fiction I thought everyone should read.

I will go down insisting that fiction is as vital and important as non-fiction, but I couldn't really come up with an answer. It's something I'll have to give more thought to. What would make a work of fiction feel that important? And does such a work of fiction already exist?

1 comment:

Mark Scroggins said...

Hard to think of something contemporary -- tho I don't read all that much fiction. But Uncle Tom's Cabin was certainly a galvanizing book on the issue of emancipation; and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which was written to effect change in meat-packing labor practices, ended up with the unintended consequence of the founding of the FDA & various food purity laws being passed.

While I'm not a big fan of Margaret Atwood, I think everybody who lives in a gated community (or who knows someone who lives in one) has things to learn from Oryx & Crake. Probably the last "must read" I know of was Invisible Man.