I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple.
I just think that fiction that isn’t exploring what it means to be human today isn’t art.
Ronit was an artist in the sense DFW was talking about. She gave voice to the voiceless in many regards. She made visible the invisible. She gave power to the powerless. Her characters were usually outcasts, unseen, invisible, and yet empowered by their realness and authenticity.
Farewell Ronit. May your voice continue to speak and haunt the comfortable in this world and also comfort the afflicted