Empathy for the devil: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
In my last post, I considered empathy as a supposed outcome of reading fiction. I didn’t consider whether being empathetic was a worthy goal. The People in the Trees forced me to consider just that.
Is empathy a good thing? Is it useful? Is everyone worthy of empathy, or only certain people? Does empathy even have a “target,” or is the empathetic person just empathizing with everyone, all the time? Even with people engaged in taboo behaviour? Even with people who use a position of power to prey on the weak? What are the limits of empathy?
If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop here, but tell me if you’ve ever empathized with an evil fictional character. Also, go read Naomi’s spoiler-free review at Consumed by Ink. We read this book together and exchanged many emails as we tried to make sense of it. We both recommend it highly.
Book-loving hedonists and alienated intellectuals: why readers need to settle down about reading
I love book culture. I love book blogs (obviously?) and book festivals, and readings, and #FridayReads and #amreading. I do not love the way we book people talk about ourselves, though. The memes, infographics, think pieces, quotes and such that grind my gears fall into two categories:
- Readers are different
- Readers are better people
I’ve been thinking about these ideas lately, with help from a couple authors I’ve been lucky enough to see in person. Continue reading