May 13, 2009

A Normal Writer?

I am reading A Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Bernieres, an elegiac love story about Chris, a middle-aged English man, and Roza, a young Serbian woman. I say elegiac because the story (so far) recounts Roza's horrific childhood during the Balkan Crisis. I appreciate de Bernieres literary skill but the story is turning out to be extremely sad and disturbing. In the last paragraph of chapter seven, Chris reflects on the difference between Roza's story and his own:

My background was modest and sane, and there was plenty of love simmering away serenely under all the polite English restraint. I had a friend in the late fifties who used to play comic songs on the piano, and every now and then he'd stop dead in the middle of a number and sing, "Thank God I'm normal." Anyways, my family was quite normal, and I've always been normal, sad to say. It didn't leave me with many stories. It was all so normal that I didn't know whether to thank God or curse him.

This begs the question, if someone receives a loving childhood and leads a completely normal existence, can she offer an interesting perspective through storytelling or another creative outlet? Does suffering produce the best art? In his column on genius, David Brooks suggests that personal tragedy makes a genius: "It would also help if one of her parents died when she was 12, infusing her with a profound sense of insecurity and fueling a desperate need for success." I have been blessed with a life untouched by major trauma and tragedy (I am knocking on every piece of wood in my room right now), so I wonder if my view of the world is really that interesting if my life is relatively narrow and my experience reflective of a safe, secure status quo. I am not saying I want to experience horribly suffering. Perhaps, it's that the more intense one's life, the more the mind is stimulated and inspired to creative descriptive of said life. Food for thought...
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