Smiley on the Novel

From Jane Smiley’s “13 Ways of Looking at the Novel,” which I just finished:

“But when I have read a long novel, when I have entered systemically into a sensibility that is alien to mine, the author’s or a character’s, when I have become interested in another person because he is interesting, not because he is privileged or great, there is a possibility that at the end I will be a degree less self-centered than I was at the beginning, that I will be a degree more able to see the world as another sees it. And there is the possibility that I will be able to reason about my own emotions. In the end I will be more empathetic (I will understand through the logical connection made in the novel and my experience of the author’s sensibility as expressed in his style) and I will be more sympathetic (I will feel along with the characters and perhaps the author).”

And this:

“If the novel has died for men (and some publishers and critics say that men read fewer novels than they used to), then the inner lives of their friends and family members are a degree more closed to them than before. If the novel dies, or never lives, for children and teenagers who spend their time watching TV or playing video games, then they will always be somewhat mystified by others, and by themselves as well.”