Worth the Pain

Elizabeth Lowell defends popular fiction in an essay that teems with straw men, but is still fun to read.

Contrary to what the critics tell us, popular fiction is not a swamp of barely literate escapism; popular fiction is composed of ancient myths newly reborn, telling and retelling a simple truth: ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Jack can plant a beanstalk that will provide endless food; a Tom Clancy character can successfully unravel a conspiracy that threatens the lives of millions. A knight can slay a dragon; a Stephen King character can defeat the massed forces of evil. Cinderella can attract the prince through her own innate decency rather than through family connections; a Nora Roberts heroine can, through her own strength, rise above a savagely unhappy past and bring happiness to herself and others.

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And that’s why people read popular fiction. To be reminded that life is worth the pain.

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One thought on “Worth the Pain

  1. Yes, there is a satisfaction to be gained from reading all kinds of stories. I still like Greek mythology better than the Bible, and they’re all just stories to me. But it is my belief that well-educated, literate writers who are part of the intelligentsia have a responsibility to do more than regurgitate the old or invent without purpose. At a deep level, the best stories provide new meaning, and as such are more than comforting entertainment.

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