Sunday, November 6, 2011

Being a Victim, and Other Thoughts on Book Reviewing

I mostly receive literary fiction or action-adventure books to review, which means angst in various forms or an author's search for a new James Bond. 

All well and good. Then in the middle of reviewing what might be called a "literary suspense" novel yesterday, the proverbial light bulb clicked, and I began to think that fiction requires Someone to be a victim. This applies whether you're a woman running from an assumed murderer or a Bondian hero oppressed by a conspiring bureaucracy. A novel needs a victim.

The study of victimology in the personal sense might unearth two sources. Self-pity. Anger. There may be a commonality in those to emotions. I once read a wise man who said "Anger is the most extreme form of self-pity." 

No one wants to be a victim. To refuse to be one requires will and action, and of course, the attitude that will and action will resolve the situation that supposedly victimizes the person. Some situations are not resolvable, disability as an example. That means attitude must be the fundamental controlling factor, which I suppose is what Norman Vincent Peale and my father were trying to tell me decades ago.

The idea that so many story narratives require a victim jumped off the page when I was reading about a protagonist who believes a man had kidnapped and killed her daughter. She moves to a nearby town. The alleged killer follows. The woman obsesses, grieves, grows angry, neglects her surviving daughter, and ultimately pursues the alleged killer. She is a victim, languishes in her victimhood, and finally lashes out. 

The story requires her victimhood.

And that says something about writing fiction, and life in the real world.

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