To me the most important part of literature is that it promotes empathy. I am not the most empathetic person in the world. When I walk through shopping centres and some person purposely walks at me or bumps my arm that can make me really angry. Almost to the point of fighting with people, physically.
I turn to literature not just to escape the hellish nightmare that is human society, but also to try and expand my ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. It is very easy to become angry at people. It is very easy to discriminate against people because of the way they look, the color of their skin, their sex, their sexual orientation, their political views the list goes on and on, but if a person can educate themselves and learn where others come from it makes it much easier to not only tolerate other people but accept them.
A man refuses to move over in a crowded space and tries to bump you with his shoulder, a woman with a shaved head pushes in front of you, a car cuts you off in traffic, all these things can very easily make me very angry and judgemental, but it would be a different story if I knew the man has had severe problems with bullying in his childhood, the woman was sexually assaulted as a child and the driver of the car has just been told they have cancer. All these backstories would explain to me why these people are acting they way they are and would help me not to lose my temper. It is of course impossible to know everyones story in real life, but in novels, I am able to discover that everyone is facing a battle, that life is hard and that people from other walks of life, from other cultures, from other neighborhoods are not as different from me as I first thought.
Another reason I turn to literature is that great stories let me know that I am not alone, my problems have been faced by others before and here are some ways to or ways not to face the problems. I was in a book store today and I picked up Catcher in the Rye. It is one of my favorite books and when ever I see it I pick it up and it instantly takes my back to when I was 15 and I read it for the first time. I read along the “all that David Copperfield crap” line and again I am a young man reading about a young man who is having real problems. I remember being excited to finally find a voice that told me: here it is, here are those feelings, I am having them to… Just today I stood in the book store and I smiled because Holden was talking to me again and I was a teenager again. He is my friend and here he is as fresh and funny as ever.Only a few books can do that.
I tried like hell to make something like this in my debut novel ‘The Bomber’ I wanted to make a voice that was so unique but also faced the same problems of loneliness, anger, revenge and love that we all experience at different points of our lives. Literature is the most powerful of all art forms.