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« Woolf and Imagined Women | Main | Ferrante and Woolf »
Monday
Mar212011

Anger and Fiction

Anger may well be the most difficult human emotion to express in fiction--although we have it in spades in DAYS OF ABANDONMENT. Those writers who come in for some snarky ribbing at their attempts to portray human passion might disagree--there are contests every year for the worst fictional depictions of sex (click here if you're prurient and interested). Still and nonetheless, anger eludes even the best writers.

It's easier to express anger on stage, in plays, in dance, even in painting. It's even easier in nonfiction. But fiction functions "at one remove," the world created not real but full of reality claims and so always a conditional world, the words themselves an opaque, unstable, and (semi-)permeable membrane between the imagined (and thus not "real") action and us. Anger is white hot; words, especially those in a novel or short story, are cool, distant, abstract. Yet Ferrante manages to pull it all off, a feat of some daring.

As a contrast, take a look at this music video. It's by a contemporary alternative rock group, The All-American Rejects. It's about anger inside a relationship. Forget about the gay subtext and focus in on how the video tries to express anger--as it indeed does, given its title: "Gives You Hell." (There are some rather adult moments--or at least one adult hand gesture--in this video, so a word to the wise is sufficient. Remember that our website has a low bandwidth and so it's best to let the video load a bit on your browser before you press play. An ad pops up after a few seconds on the bottom of the screen--you can get rid of it by clicking on the "x" in the corner.)

Think for a moment about the differences between this music video and Ferrante's novel. Those differences are profound--and might cue you into the ways she is able to pull off what few others can.

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