16.8.13

Maybe I Just Like Jerks


In case we're not Facebook friends, I'll just tell you: I love fiction. I enjoy discussing it as much as I enjoy reading it. But all the same, there are some literary icebreakers on social media that stop me cold. The most successful conversation blocker is some variation on "if you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?" I mentally run through the list of characters in my favorite stories and hit a wall.

Winesburg, Ohio. Everyone has a creepy secret. Or they might. Either way, I'd spend the entire meal judging them and that would make me feel bad about myself.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is the best. But has the guy ever cracked a joke? He might be too serious, and oh, look, five people chose him already.

Anything by George Saunders. Are you kidding me? Darkly funny misunderstandings will ensue, but I'm not sure I want to be in the middle of that. How about not inviting flawed people who are disturbingly a lot like me.

Anything by Flannery O'Connor. See "Anything by George Saunders."

And it goes on like that. I remembered this while reviewing a book about Christianity and pop culture that examined, among other things, the portrayal of moral people in film. Good people are great in real life, it said, but boring in fiction. When I think about it that way, I would love to spend time with any of the authors of my favorite books, or the writers of some of my favorite shows for that matter, but their creations are best observed and even empathized with from a distance. I can learn from them, but I won't aspire to be like them and I definitely won't share my ice cream with them.

Then again, maybe I'm unique in this. Maybe I read the wrong books.

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