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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

Why Write Fiction? Gabriel Josipovici
The immediate response to the question in my title might well be: Why not write fiction? After all, everybody seems to be doing it, and (in Britain and the US at any rate), for those lacking in confidence, more and more ‘creative writing’ courses are springing up all the time.

But a little thought is enough to make you hesitate. Though there have never been so many novels published as today, and though every other novel is hailed as a masterpiece, there is a countercurrent in our culture which suggests that fiction is essentially trivial and worthless, a pleasant way to pass the time on a beach or a railway journey, but no more; if you want to read something serious and worthwhile you should read one of the equally large number of excellent books of history, biography or popular science. And if you want to get close to experience you might be better off watching documentary films or immersing yourself in street culture, rap, hip-hop and graffiti, for this is where the real life is to be found. Or so argues the American critic David Shields, whose manifesto, Reality Hunger, clearly caught the mood of a disaffected intelligentsia and has proved enormously popular. Yet it hasn’t succeeded in stemming the flow of novels or the enrolment at creative writing courses. And how could it? We all of us seem to have the need to tell stories, to ourselves if not to others, and some have even argued that man is a story-telling animal, that our species defines ...


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