Buddhism teaches that we can let go of illusion by letting go of “our story,” i.e. letting go of our insistence on seeing reality our way. Many literary classics teach us the same lesson, sometimes through characters metamorphosing by undergoing evolutionary cycles including tragic moments. We see this struggle and more or less successful letting go performed by protagonists such as the Buddha, Oedipus, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Henry James’ Maisie, Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome,” Ishiguro’s characters in The Remains of the Day, Toni Morrison’s Sethe in Beloved, and Murakami’s un-hero in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle who learns to let go of all his stories by sitting in a dark well for a long time.
The common theme in these fictions as well as in many others is letting go of illusion by letting go of one’s story, all unfolded in fiction. What sort of fiction must one invent to not add to the world of illusions? Does something distinguish these fictions in addition to the theme, something that makes them resist becoming part of our illusions? Or is it impossible not to add to the illusory? Where do commonalities between letting go of one’s story end and differences in consequences thereof open up, according to whatever works of fiction we decide to look at? What do these fictions have to say about what stories we rarely let go of? How does this theme of letting go of story in story speak to the story-telling during the global pandemic in 2020, specifically about the stories we tell of the “before-the-pandemic” world? Are we, like Murakami’s character, in the well, or are we emerging? How can we tell? Tell us.
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie is a novel that came out in 1988 that was the most polarizing piece of fiction in that era. It outraged the Muslim community since a lot of the topics in the book criticize and question their faith; leading to a fatwa on the author’s head. Rushdie was in hiding for a decade, and still to this day people are outraged by this book. To those who have read it, what do you think would happen if this book was released today, would it receive the same backlash and would Mr. Rushdie still have a death sentence subjected to him?
It seems like pregnancy in fiction and other popular media tends to follow a certain stereotyped and predictable trajectory, which isn’t usually very realistic. Usually what will happen is a woman will discover she’s pregnant in an overly emotional scene after she’s thrown up a few times, then will get bigger for a while until she gives birth to a beautiful, cooing baby in an unrealistically clean and idealized setting. Examples of this are too numerous to list, though one famous one can be seen in the anime movie Wolf Children. It’s also common in fanfiction.
Sometimes, of course, the woman will die in childbirth; however, if this happens it will also be overly-dramatic and sanitized compared to what a death in childbirth would really look like. In the anime "Clannad," for example, Nagisa dies shortly after the birth of her daughter on a clean bed with a smile on her face, while her husband looks on in tears.
What do you think is driving some of these trends of unrealistic pregnancy in fiction? Are there any works that seem to do a more realistic job of portraying pregnancy and birth?
Very intriguing, however, try providing specific television shows or examples from different media. Also, the thesis is off a bit, maybe pin down your thesis more; is it offensive how childbirth is portrayed? Or are women being depreciated because of the depiction of pregnancy in media?
Overall this is really thought provoking! – Yasmine Allen2 years ago
I personally would love to see this topic turned into an article! This an issue that is so ingrained in our society it's hard to notice; childbearing is always glamorized and encouraged. It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to encourage reproduction... but does it still make sense now? – Slaidey2 years ago
Interesting topic and definitely important to explore, but I also think there are a lot of great examples of realistic pregnancy/childbirth/parenting starting to emerge in backlash of these earlier unrealistic depictions (e.g. Jane the Virgin, Parenthood, later seasons of The Mindy Project). I think a lot has to do with perhaps a masculine gaze or male writers, not knowing or wanting to share the reality because it's usually not as dramatic or TV-worthy (water breaking usually just feels like peeing, for example, or labour being hours but only having a contraction every hour or so... not a quick process!). – sarahduignan2 years ago
To what extent do you think a writer’s experience (life, personal, certain events) shapes their fictional work? I always like to ponder what aspects of a fictional piece is relatable or true to the author. Of course their are many reasons that shape an authors work, whether it be inspiration from other pieces of work, a dream which has expanded into a novel, or just a thought that popped into their head. If you write fictional pieces, can you see pieces of your life experience sewed into them?
I think this is a fundamental truth in fiction writing. No matter how detached the author is from the character/situation there will always be some residue of the authors experiences and life choices that subconsciously find their way into the work. – ReidaBookman4 years ago
I think this connection is sort of inevitable in any writing. This is why the separation of art and artist can be so difficult for some. In the same way, I think many writers, (including myself) use writing as a form of personal therapy. – wcbraymen4 years ago
It depends on the topic of fiction, but ultimately writers can attach themselves to the characters, the story line, the setting and the morals of the fictional work, especially if they are writing in a form that is appealing and truthful to themselves, consciously and subconsciously. – HollyDavidson4 years ago
Love this topic. I find it hard to write anything fictional without relating it back to my life and experiences in some way. I don't believe an author can truly be 100% detached from anything they write, and if they are, there's no magic. – CarliStas3 years ago