Something I’ve been writing about for awhile (in different short stories, mostly) and I know to be almost wholly true– is this idea that reading can change you. That when you take the characters in, read their memories, their thoughts, that they perform a bit of alchemy on your brain. You become different, somehow, you assimilate them. That’s why I’m very against the idea of reading as only an escape- because it’s not just, it’s never just. Even if it’s just a popcorn book, you have to vanguard against what you can become by reading something–
Anyway I’ve got a pet theory I’m toying with right now. Literature has a function, and that function is to increase empathy while decreasing entropy. It is a strike against death and it is the enlargening of the human heart. Anything that doesn’t meet these two criteria is a book that can toy with us, can destroy us, can make us into something lesser.
Looking at two sides of this- Nazi propaganda versus the books of existentialist revolutionaries in Nazi Occupied France. One creates a larger sense of empathy and being human (and in doing so freezes time momentarily, a strike against death) while the other decreases empathy, increases hatred, and adds more entropy into the universe, chipping away at what we are.