Steven Weiner, Computer Specialist and Aesthetic Realism associate, writes:
Why can a novel, so much about the feelings of other people—including feelings that are painful—be so deeply pleasing to us? Can we really learn about ourselves, become better people, care more for the world, through a good novel? If so, how? Read “People in Novels—& Us,” the exciting new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We continue serializing Eli Siegel’s great lecture It Still Moves; or, The Novel. And in this issue we have the beginning of his discussion of character, personality, in fiction. He gave the lecture in 1951, and is commenting here on new ways novelists saw and showed the human self in the first half of the 20th century. Meanwhile, this Aesthetic Realism principle is true about what makes a novel of any century good, and that includes what causes a fictional character to be alive: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
We Are For & Against
Let’s take opposites that Mr. Siegel is looking at here as he comments on a famous character of James Joyce: the being against the world and also for it. These opposites are tremendous in everyone’s life. Men and women shuttle confusedly between liking things and being disgusted, and they also can use that shuttle itself, that rift, that continuous non-composition of for and against in them, to be more disgusted than ever. In a good novel though, even as the main character may be in a war with what’s around him, the novelist is showing—through the way the sentences are made, through description, through the way events come together and people come together—that there’s meaning in it all. And to see meaning is to be for the world.
A good novelist, even if he shows a character’s dislike of the world, is putting together in his writing the opposites that make up that world: rest and motion, surface and depth, unity and diversity, and more. And so, as we, the reader, are pleased, excited, engrossed, composed by what we read, we’re liking the world itself, the way reality as such is made….Read more