Svetlana Alexievich, following the announcement of her 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, spoke about writing in the modern age: “You know, everything happens so fast and intensively in the modern world that neither one person nor the whole culture are able to conceive it. It is just too fast, unfortunately. There is no time to sit and think it over, as did Tolstoy, whose ideas matured over decades. Every person, me too, can only try to grasp a small piece of reality, conjecture only. Sometimes I leave only 10 lines out of 100 pages of my text, sometimes one page. And all together these pieces are united in a novel of voices creating the image of our time and telling what is happening to us.”*
While I’m less prone to idolize Tolstoy (though I’m a fan), I am definitely susceptible to generalizing about how our fast-paced mediated lives are not typically conducive to unhurried contemplation. That said, isn’t it true of all times that each one of us is only a part of the whole? As such, uniting these “pieces” creates the novel of us.
Here’s another way to think about it. A study was done as a result of the digitization of US literature in the last century to scan for mentions of specific “mood words” to gauge the tenor of the times. I mention this to say that each individual story did add up to the larger story of the decades.
That is why to write. Or one reason anyway. Otherwise, the narrative of our history is being told by others and that has proven less than equitable.
Unless, of course, it’s being told by cloverfield. Then I’m good. He’s got this.