the purpose of literature / by mrm

"The answer to the use-pleasure conundrum is not neither, but both. What is more, they are the same thing. 'Use' does not mean instruction, as it did to Horace or the Victorians, the inculcation of virtue through the presentation of moral exempla. It means awareness. Literature is 'useful' because it wakes us up from the sleepwalk of self-involvement—of plans, anxieties, resentments, habits, the fog that clings to our eyes as we stumble through the day, stumble through our lives—and shows us the world, shows us ourselves, shows us life and experience and the reality of other people, and forces us to think about them all. The pleasure of serious literature is not escape or fantasy, it is this very shiver of consciousness, this troubling exhilaration. Reading is thinking and feeling, both at once and both together, simultaneous and identical. Pleasure is use, use pleasure."