Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's your agenda?

The Blue Bookcase's Literary Blog Hop asks the following question: Should literature have a social, political, or any other type of agenda? Does having a clear agenda enhance or subtract from its literary value?

It's hard to think of a book that doesn't have some sort of agenda or promote something beyond just the story at hand. Of course this may not be entirely intentional on the author's part or at least the author may not have set out to write a persuasion piece, but for the most part a story is going to have some sort of larger purpose. Now whether this enhances or detracts from the story, well that's up to how good the author is.

I may or may not have mentioned a zillion times that I'm reading Beijing Coma. It's about the protests that happened in Tienanmen Square in '89 and get out of town, that has some politics in it? But, thus far anyway, there is no political diatribe for or against what happened, the movement, the government, anything. There is no point where it feels like Ma Jian puts his own words into a characters mouth. That doesn't mean Ma Jian doesn't agree with a point one of his character's is making, but at no point am I removed from the story to listen to him prattle on about something that could easily be removed from the book with no harm to the story.

Connie mentions George Orwell's Animal Farm and how Orwell fully acknowledges the agenda he had while writing the book, and while the message is clear it doesn't detract from the story. But even stories that don't have a set out agenda still make some point.

I don't know what Austen's intentions were when she set out to write Pride and Prejudice but the character Lizzie certainly seems from beyond her time, perhaps echoing the type of woman that Austen wanted to see. Or perhaps I've brought my own agenda to the reading.

So, what do you think?