"Most great works of the imagination were meant to make you feel like a stranger in your own home. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted."
--Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran,
quoted in David Denby's Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Scools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives (2016)
I don't agree that "most great works of the imagination" were meant to do to anything. Do you?
When authors set out to disguise instruction as fiction ("to make you feel..."), it doesn't reach the mark of "great works of the imagination". There's a suspicious odor about it, like the grocery bag of donated books with an unplaceable sweet odor that I unpacked the other day .
When I got to the bottom, there was the melty body of a mouse.
George Orwell's novels, for instance, might be great political commentary, but they are not great works of the imagination--you can smell their machinery oil.
And does most great fiction force us (force us?) to question our reality? Often it clearly presents what we knew to be true, but couldn't express.
Anyway, whatever--there is a value to things that shake us out of our mental complacency, and this quote came to me because yesterday at work, two customers asked me when Halloween was.
Not like, "Oh, gee, how many days is it till Halloween?"
No, I mean, they literally didn't know what date the holiday fell on.
Work works like that--it makes me feel like a stranger in my assumptions.
I love that.
You'd think every grown up knows when Halloween is, or that state taxes aren't used to fund war, or that sterling silver shouldn't go in metal recycling.
Each social group has a community chest containing a general fund of knowledge, and there may be little or no crossover between these GFKs.
My coworkers know lots of things that I don't even know are things to know...