her last post to further explore the blog's theme for this month: Should fiction have a purpose?
Last week I attended a lecture where that question was thrown out to the class in a slightly different form: Should art have a purpose? At one point the lecturer urged me to decide one way or another. I could not. Initially I found the ideal of Aestheticism, or art for art's sake, profoundly appealing. Why should art, including fiction, have any underlying purpose? Why set out to be didactic, or political, or moralistic? Why not just be wildly or quietly creative with no motive but to express an innate impulse to make something new, beautiful and utterly useless?
As the discussion progressed and I gave the issue more thought I decided that whether the artist/writer intends it or not, all art has purpose intrinsically: entertainment, yes, but also humour, exploration of ideas, places, eras and peoples, "life, the universe and everything" - or to put it succinctly, it explores all of what it means to be human. The audience brings myriad reference points to the story and each member takes away something unique and lasting. Every book I've read has made an impression, even the ones I've flung against the wall.
What makes a creative piece 'fluff'? The fact that a book was written for entertainment alone does not devalue it; I've found value in some of the most light-hearted, frivolous, agenda-free stories. So here I go, trotting over to the Aestheticist aisle once again. I submit that what debases a work of fiction is not the absence of an overt purpose on the part of the writer but whether, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the story is well or badly written.