Writing as Social Commentary

So this post will be another stream of consciousness babble fest, but here goes:

The novel I’m working on is a story based on what I fear that I see growing in society; that is, what I am afraid is happening with what I perceive as an “everything for profit” society. That may sound a bit preachy but…

The books I find most interesting are the works of Vonnegut, Huxley, Bradbury and Orwell. (Wow, even by avid reader standards, I’m a geek.) I’m thinking that this is due to the fact that I have always been the odd-ball outsider in what is a very conservative area of my state. Blame my father. He was a hard-assed union man from the late 1940’s. He was also the one who not only encouraged me to read, but to make sure what I was reading was worthwhile.

We may have been the geekiest blue-collar ever to inhabit Earth. By the time I was in middle-school, my dad would either read a poem to me or I would read one and we would discuss it. Setting, characters, meaning, he and I would discuss it all. Everyone from Noyes to Tennyson to Dickinson to Sandburg was fair game.

It was during that time that Pops introduced me to Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five“. I was sold. He and I talked about what the book meant, and what it meant to me. Why was the book written in the first place? Did Billy Pilgrim lose his mind? What was the purpose of the science fiction theme? From that time on, I felt Kurt Vonnegut was one of the greats.

Hey, not bad for a twelve or thirteen year old.

But literature wasn’t all of it. Dad loved reading the Chicago Tribune. And chief among the reasons for this was Mike Royko. He would have me read Royko’s columns to engage me in news papers and to instill in me the idea that everyone has opinions but the best opinions are those that are best informed.

Incidentally, when I took my Op-Ed class, Mike Royko was held up as the gold standard of opinion writing. Damn, my old man knew what he was talking about.

So this brings me to my writing. I hope it doesn’t sound presumptuous, but I try to write what is important to me.

The novel I am writing tries to tackle both socio-economic inequality and women’s issues. Both of these I have strong, progressive stances on. I am trying my best to write a novel that is worth reading, but it might be slower going than I had first hoped.

Wish me luck.

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One thought on “Writing as Social Commentary

  1. I think Orwell and the others are masters because their work was political without being polarizing. Their social commentary can be supported by both conservatives and progressives. 1984 is a great example of this. The female lead of 1984 was a sexually liberated progressive character, and the book is a satire on conservative pro-war ideals. But conservatives agree that limiting the opportunities of citizens and criminilizing individualism are also very bad things (individualism can be argued both ways though, as both sides are a bit hypocritical about their pro-individualism.)

    So my advice to you is to find some sort of middle ground in your social commentary. Conservatives and progressives have more in common than you might think. You can make both of them scorn big government if you present the issues the right way. You could make both of them scorn small government just as easily (with anarchy, there will be no one to give out welfare AND no one to outlaw abortion! :P). In the same way, I think you could get both sides to agree that an “everything for profit world” can be hazardous as well.

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