Novelist Choi to discuss power of political novel

CHOI

CHOI

Susan Choi wants to know what makes a novel political. Is it the subject matter? Its arguments? Or its themes?

“The question of what politics has to do with literature is something that has interested me throughout my career,” Choi said.

Choi is the author of multiple novels, including the 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist American Woman and the 2009 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection A Person of Interest.

She’s also the prose writer-in-residence for Week Five at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. Her Brown Bag on “The Political Novel: Inferior or Important?” is at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Choi said her Brown Bag was inspired by Week Five’s theme, “Art & Politics.” She said her novels often have some sort of political bent or issue in them, such as A Person of Interest. She wants to discuss how politics and the written word are linked in her own work, as well as in the wider literary landscape.

“What really moves me as a writer is this question of whether a novel can play a role in making the world a better place,” Choi said. “I think that’s what interests me about politics. I’m interested in whether politics can make the world a better place, because I think that’s what they’re supposed to do, ideally.”

Choi said she’s been looking at a number of different political novels to help inform her lecture. She said she’s inundated with great examples, but two in particular she’s been examining are Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. Both novels tackle the subject of the French Revolution, albeit in very different ways, Choi said. She said she hopes to discuss the “advantages and drawbacks” of both authors’ approaches and styles as well as their intent.

“Do we have a responsibility to engage with politics in our writing?” Choi said. “Or, on the contrary, should we be avoiding it and just telling stories that don’t have that political taint?”

Choi said she felt that Week Five’s theme and her lecture topic were timely, because Americans live in a “complicated” era.

“It’s hard to know how each of us individually should live our lives for the best of society and for the best of others,” Choi said. “I’m really interested in whether or not the novel can help us — whether or not it can help us have empathy for others in such a way that that would improve our political process.”

Choi said she thinks politics has a lot to do with social ideals, and that a lot of the political and social problems in American society have to do with a “lack of empathy” between groups — something novels can address and maybe even fix.

“There’s a lot of intolerance, and I think that the novel is often a way that people can step into the shoes of another person and develop empathy and understanding, and that actually drives political change in a positive way,” Choi said.

Choi wants her audience to come away from her talk with the idea that art and politics truly can be intertwined, and maybe the relationship between the two can change the world for the better.

“I’m hoping that people think about whether or not a novel is something we can turn to in our contemporary life to help us figure out our own relationship to politics and society — whether or not the novel has a role to play,” Choi said.

Susan Choi wants to know what makes a novel political. Is it the subject matter? Its arguments? Or its themes?

“The question of what politics has to do with literature is something that has interested me throughout my career,” Choi said.

Choi is the author of multiple novels, including the 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist American Woman and the 2009 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection A Person of Interest.

She’s also the prose writer-in-residence for Week Five at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. Her Brown Bag on “The Political Novel: Inferior or Important?” is at 12:15 p.m. today on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Choi said her Brown Bag was inspired by Week Five’s theme, “Art & Politics.” She said her novels often have some sort of political bent or issue in them, such as A Person of Interest. She wants to discuss how politics and the written word are linked in her own work, as well as in the wider literary landscape.

“What really moves me as a writer is this question of whether a novel can play a role in making the world a better place,” Choi said. “I think that’s what interests me about politics. I’m interested in whether politics can make the world a better place, because I think that’s what they’re supposed to do, ideally.”

Choi said she’s been looking at a number of different political novels to help inform her lecture. She said she’s inundated with great examples, but two in particular she’s been examining are Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. Both novels tackle the subject of the French Revolution, albeit in very different ways, Choi said. She said she hopes to discuss the “advantages and drawbacks” of both authors’ approaches and styles as well as their intent.

“Do we have a responsibility to engage with politics in our writing?” Choi said. “Or, on the contrary, should we be avoiding it and just telling stories that don’t have that political taint?”

Choi said she felt that Week Five’s theme and her lecture topic were timely, because Americans live in a “complicated” era.

“It’s hard to know how each of us individually should live our lives for the best of society and for the best of others,” Choi said. “I’m really interested in whether or not the novel can help us — whether or not it can help us have empathy for others in such a way that that would improve our political process.”

Choi said she thinks politics has a lot to do with social ideals, and that a lot of the political and social problems in American society have to do with a “lack of empathy” between groups — something novels can address and maybe even fix.

“There’s a lot of intolerance, and I think that the novel is often a way that people can step into the shoes of another person and develop empathy and understanding, and that actually drives political change in a positive way,” Choi said.

Choi wants her audience to come away from her talk with the idea that art and politics truly can be intertwined, and maybe the relationship between the two can change the world for the better.

“I’m hoping that people think about whether or not a novel is something we can turn to in our contemporary life to help us figure out our own relationship to politics and society — whether or not the novel has a role to play,” Choi said.