Monday, 3 June 2013

Podcast Thursday on Monday: Guy Gavriel Kay

So much of life is about seizing the moment. That’s true when it comes to creating, as well. Like this condensation on an empty glass water jug, straight from the refrigerator on a hot day—it changed as I watched. Had I hesitated in taking these photos, I would have missed recording this evanescent beauty.
But it got me thinking about how everything is always in the process of becoming something new. We are certainly always changing, as are our creations.
In this (not quite Thursday) podcast of Guy Gavriel Kay, the fantasy author discusses how reading fiction changes us. He sites a study that links those who read fiction with higher levels of empathy and he says this:
“The act of reading fiction is essentially an act of immersing yourself in other lives than your own. If a writer is skillful, they are causing you to care about the invented figures in the novel and that act of caring for what happens to invented figures is one that—the suggestion is—develops empathy.”  Guy Gavriel Kay

He goes on to say that a little part of him questions that: Are those who are more naturally inclined to empathy drawn to reading fiction or does fiction actually develop empathy in people? Good question. That’s why I like him – no simple answers.

Regardless, I think most would agree that the acts of both experiencing empathy and reading fiction change a person. A story read, if it’s been successful, gives you a slightly shifted perspective…or maybe not so slightly.

Also on the topic of change, Kay points out that we tend to think we are better than our predecessors, that we are more evolved and knowledgeable, but is that true? In his latest book, with the compelling title River of Stars, Kay creates a society where people feel “less than” previous generations, not “greater than.” That’s interesting. I’m curious, too, about what such a society would look like. 
 He also talks about how unintended themes emerged in the writing of River of Stars. The theme of family and how parent and child relationships shape us hadn’t occurred to him in his research stage, but it emerged as soon as he began writing and ended up driving the engine of the plot.

 It’s always fascinating to hear about how the creative process surprises the creator. Perhaps that says something true about all creators/Creator? Our creations have a life of their own—they, too, change and evolve into something different than what we originally intended, and because of that they change us—the creators!

The podcast ends with Shelagh saying: “I felt that generosity, empathy, mercy and kindness can actually change things.” Kay is so grateful for the insight and expresses concern about what he says is a tendency toward pure bitterness and cynicism in today’s literature. “Those are only a part of life,” he says. “There are those of us who are acting, thinking, writing and behaving in ways that try to provide an alternative to that way of being and thinking.”

 Agreed. Creating art that brings beauty and healing and a little more light and love and beauty to the world, that’s a thing worth pursuing. Change for good—that's a pitcher half-full philosophy. Heck, even an empty pitcher can be a good thing.

BONUS: My friend, Laurie Grassi, Chatelaine's book editor, interviews Guy Gavriel Kay HERE (the bottom left of the HOME page on Guy's website). Check it out. I missed the event, and I would have discussed it here, but I only found the link late last night. Visit Laurie's website, too, for more author interviews.

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