What should fiction do?
By Bonnie Nadzam
An artistic practice that perpetually reinforces my sense of self is not, in my mind, an artistic practice. I’m not talking about rejecting memoir or characters “based on me.” What I mean is I don’t have the stomach for art that purports to “hold up a mirror to nature,” or for what this implies, philosophically, about selfhood and the world in which we live.
Says philosopher Bruce Wilshire: “The crucial ambiguity in the metaphor of holding the mirror up to nature is that it suggests that the use of a mirror may be necessary for nature to see itself… but that it may not be necessary for some observer of nature—however transcendental or ideal—to use, to see it.” It seems to me not only that there is no transcendental or ideal observer, but that even if there were, it certainly would not be me, nor any of the other writers I know (sorry, other writers I know), however keen we may occasionally find our powers of observation. Since I am only human, truth is not what is reflected in the mirror, but is in the act of holding up the mirror to see what is reflected in the mirror.