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The Power of Fiction: January Picks

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Phil, Queen's Square | January 2, 2019

In 2018, I wrote a monthly piece about being well read, where I noted a variety of new non-fiction books to read and consider. For 2019, I hope to take a look at the ideas and stories that can be found in new fiction titles.

Antigone Undone

The idea for this series arrived after reading Canadian author and theatre critic Will Aiken’s Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove, and the Art of Resistance. Aiken interviews the actor, director, and playwright/translator of the ancient Greek tragedy for insights, while concurrently writing about his worsening depression. He sees the depression as a consequence of repeatedly seeing the play, but, ultimately, concludes that it is also talking through that play that helps Aiken put his life back together. At the core of this book then, is the question: what power does fiction have, if any, and how can fiction help us cope with the world we live in?

Every month, I’ll look at new fiction through this lens along with some tangential ideas about fiction: why we read it, and the pleasures and anguishes it provides.

I’ll begin with some recent fiction by Sally Rooney: Conversations with Friends : a novel; Joyce Carol Oates: Hazards of Time Travel; Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation  and Lionel Shriver: Property : Stories Between Two Novellas. Hopefully, we will stay healthy in the process!

Conversations with FriendsHazards of Time TravelMy Year of Rest and RelaxationProperty

For those who are super-keen: here’s Anne Carson reading her translation of Antigone: (Antigonick); Juliette Binoche on the first-time seeing Antigone; and a short clip of the staging of van Hove’s play. And, of course, if you’d like to read the original, you can download Sophocles collection of Theban plays.