“Cynicism is not the cure for sentimentality”

I love things [movies, books etc.] that are brave enough to be nakedly about what our lives are actually built of, when you’re wild about someone, or you love something, or you’re a fool, or you embarrass yourself. And I don’t think the answer is cynicism. Cynicism is not the cure for sentimentality. Cynicism is its own form of sentimentality. … Life is not bad, and it doesn’t look more real if it’s ugly or it’s gritty. Think of your own life. Most of what’s in your own life, hopefully, is exactly that. Friendship and love and passion for movies and cartoons and comic books, whatever it is that you love. Most of the way we live our lives involves looking for pleasure and beauty and happiness and affection. Real artists don’t use reflexive clichés about things. It’s about honoring the reality of people’s lives, which defies conventions and clichés and expectations. People are interesting, period.

Daniel Mendelsohn (from this interview). Co-sign. There is a certain article/essay/lecture that comes around periodically in the evangelical sub-culture about “Christian” fiction (note: Daniel Mendelsohn, not commenting on this phenomenon). A phrase like “recognizing the reality of a fallen world” is used. More grit is requested. The popularity of the “Amish romance” sub-genre is referenced. Flannery O’Connor appears in some form or another (always Flannery O’Connor! Enough with the Flannery O’Connor!).  It’s a lazy, rote argument at this point, and frequently it falls into the trap Mendelsohn describes: prescribing cynicism to combat (an often accurately identified) sentimentality.  More arguments for “Christian” fiction (whatever that term means) that dares to “be nakedly about what our lives are actually built of,” please.

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