“We Share A Kinship With Monsters”

Noah Millman reflects on the Newtown murders:

[W]hat I find most terrifying about stories like Adam Lanza’s is not realizing that neither I nor my loved ones can ever be perfectly safe – I already knew that – but rather that I can all too easily imagine what it might be like to surrender to a horrible impulse. I can’t quite imagine my way into the mind of someone who picks off little children with a rifle, but any number of other horrors are mentally accessible. It only requires focusing intently on the normal rages and frustrations that bedevil anybody, and closing off everything else, including the access of other minds.

J.L. Wall adds:

The all-too-easy imagining he refers to is one of the purposes of literature, and the novel in particular—to bring us closer to those we are not, and who are not, but who could just as easily be

While the cable television serial may have become the home of the twenty-first century American anti-hero, the restrictions placed on film and television by rules and methods of pacing, of plot, of episode-length create a distance, even if only to the extent of window glass, between the audience and the protagonist that isn’tnecessarily there in fiction.  The novel, by contrast, meandering and digressive while at the same time plot-driven, is able to momentarily blur the distinction between the reader or author and the character.  In television and film, we watch, sometimes in intricate, sympathetic detail; but only in the novel do we find ourselves quite literally thinking with the character.