The Use of a Book

Books are useful when you have to hold open a door, when you need to press flowers, or when you just need to prop something up. But does literature always have to be useful?

classic books by flickr user allineedtosurvive

Fiction’s lack of practical usefulness is what gives it its special freedom. When Auden wrote that “poetry makes nothing happen,” he wasn’t complaining; he was exulting. Fiction might make people more empathetic—though I’m willing to bet that the people who respond most intensely to fiction possess a higher degree of empathy to begin with. But what it does best is to do nothing particular or specialized or easily formulable at all.

Read a bit more from you Lee Siegel over at the New Yorker, might find it useful…

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