MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #22.

IS THERE A GENERATION GAP ? PART II.

        

         In my last blog , I had discussed the psychological perspective of generation gap. I had suggested that it is the difference in emotional development between the two individuals of different ages that appears to us as a generation gap. In this blog , I would discuss the literary context of the notion of generation gap.  There are two aspects to this literary context. Firstly , does our choice of fiction depend on our age ? In other words , do we change our choice of novels as we grow old ?  The second aspect of this literary context of generation gap  is about  novelists.  Should novelists try to write fiction keeping in mind the age group of their potential readers ? I would try to deconstruct both these aspects in this blog.

        Let me begin with our choice of fiction and how it changes with time.  I am sure most of you would agree that each one of us has a set of favourite childhood books that we still remember and cherish. We also know , in our hearts , that we don’t remember and cherish these stories because they are literary master pieces. This is not to suggest that these stories are not literary master pieces.  Rather , we remember and cherish them, not because of their literary merits, but because they have left deep impression on our minds. In our formative years , when our emotional universe was being created , these stories were first to enter our sensibilities and have left indelible marks on our sensibility. In fact , it happens sometimes that these stories become benchmark for us to define what a great fiction should be . We evaluate all the other fiction that we read later in our lives in the context of this benchmark. However , this benchmark is not permanent.  As we grow old and read more and more fiction  , this benchmark also changes. However this refinement of benchmark is not universal. There would be individuals who stop reading fiction and their benchmark remains unchanged.  It is common to find grown up individuals who still keep reading juvenile literature. In fact , it is possible to classify people based on their literary preferences. This is not being judgemental, even I have stopped reading fiction some years ago. That fact , by itself , does not make me less perceptive. The key insight is that each one of us read only some kind of fiction and our likes and dislikes of fiction would be shaped by that repertoire.

            This brings us to the question of generation gap in case of readers. If what I have written above is true , then it is obvious that our sensibilities are shaped by the kind of fiction that we read. More importantly, what we read during our childhood leaves a lasting impression on our sensibilities. However, the tragedy is that , at some point in our lives , we stop growing emotionally. We become less receptive to new emotional experiences , including the ones that a good fiction may offer. From that point onwards , our emotional universe is frozen in time. This is also reflected in our perception of what is a good fiction. Thus  , there are no generation gaps amongst the readers but we have readers frozen in different sensibilities representing different emotional stages of human mind.

       I came across this realization while writing my novels.  In my first novel  , the protagonist was a bibliophile. He was obsessed with books.  While creating that character, I realized that I could correlate his subpersonalities with different types of fiction that I had shown him to be liking. The emotional conflicts within his mind were mirrored in the different types of fiction. Even in my second novel , which I am writing now , I have similar experience.  Here the protagonist doesn’t like reading fiction. However, under the influence of his girlfriend , he starts reading detective fiction. However , due to  circumstances , he stops reading fiction and therefore, his sensibility is still struck in his earlier reading of detective fiction.

       Now , let me turn to the novelist’s perspective of generation gap. There are two aspects to this perspective. Firstly , it is apparent from the discussion that a novelist would be in a particular emotional developmental stage while writing a novel, thereby representing particular age group. Moreover  , over a period of time , a novelist would evolve from one emotional stage to another.  These transitions would naturally reflect in the novelist’s fiction. It is standard practice in literary criticism to evaluate the novelists in the context of their lives.

         However , I am not concerned here about natural changes in a novelist’s sensibility and its reflection in that novelist’s creative outputs. This relationship is at the heart of creative writing and therefore sacred to me.  I am concerned about whether a novelist ought to consciously fashion the fiction with particular age group of readers in mind. In present times  , when the emphasis is on targeting the specific audience has become a major concern due to high cost of publishing and marketing books ,  this is an ethical dilemma. I am willing to accept a possibility that even a novelist wants to focus on particular age group of her /his readership simply because the novelist feels that the theme of the novel would appeal to narrow segment of readers. The key question is whether a novelist can do so without compromising  literary merits of the fiction ?

       I  think the answer is no.  A novelist can not fashion a novel , for any external considerations ,without compromising the literary merits of the novel.  However , it may happen that due to emotional resonance between the sensibility depicted in the novel and the prevalent sensibilities of a particular age group of readers, a novel may find a niche readership.  The point is a novelist can not consciously tailor a novel for the target audience. If such a targeting happens due to emotional resonance, it is always welcome ,but it can’t be manufactured.

        I am not asserting this view from any high moral ground . Rather, I think it is not possible for a novelist to do such a thing because a novelist is driven by her/his creative processes which are  , in some sense , not in novelist’s control. To think of a novelist as a master of creative processes is wrong. A novelist is a prisoner of her /his creativity. A novelist may be able to filter and refine the outputs of her/his creativity but can never manufacture a made to order fiction. Therefore my rejection of targeting a particular generation by novelists is not based on any idealism but it is based on limits of literary autonomy in creative writing. I can say this from my own experience. My first novel was written from the perspective of a middle aged protagonist. Therefore , I was determined to make use of different age groups of characters in my second novel. However , halfway through,  I realized that it is the characters , themselves , who have their own sensibilities. I , as a novelist , did not have much of a choice in deciding the sensibilities of the characters of my novel. I could only observe them just as any worried but an indulgent parent would do. There are times when I think that the characters of my novels conspire against me and make me dance to their whims and fancies. There may be or may not be a generation gap in real life , but I can tell you that there exists a definitive generation gap between a novelist and her /his characters.  This is because a novelist , being in loco parentis , is forced to understand and appreciate the travails and tribulations of her /his characters ,but the characters , being   enfante terrible, are oblivious to a novelist’s plight.

        In my next blog ,  I would discuss how  changing technologies have influenced our own sensibilities. This is important from literary point of view because not just our idiom of expression but also our way of thinking has undergone a change due to change in technologies. I found it difficult to create a different sensibility for a young girl who appears in the second half of the novel. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #21.

     IS THERE A GENERATION GAP  ?

             In my previous two blogs , I had discussed the relationship between the gender and emotions. In the next two blogs , I would discuss the notion of generation gap. Although , this notion has several sociological and psychological  connotations , I would focus only on two aspects of the notion of generation gap.  In this blog , I would discuss whether our emotions really change from one generation to the next ? In the following blog ,  I would discuss whether a novelist ought to write a novel with a view of appealing to one particular generation ? In both these blogs , my focus would be on the creative process of writing a fiction.  In other words , I would not be discussing the sociological  aspects of the generation gap but I would only discuss how this notion influences the the content and the context of a novel.  Of course , I would talk about my own experience of writing novels and particularly my second novel.

            Admittedly , most of us feel that there is a marked difference between the likes , dislikes , attitudes and opinions between us and our children. This is , ironically , also true between us and our parents. This universal feeling has prompted us to believe in the idea of generation gap. The question , however , is how valid this idea of the generation gap is ? To the extent this term refers to social norms and attitudes , this is obviously true.  However , beyond this , at the level of our mental make up , this term is not really valid. In fact  , purely from the psychological point of view  , there is no such thing as the generation gap. There are only different perceptions of reality. What actually happens is that the differences between any two generations arise due to different developmental stages of mind. Two individuals , belonging to two different age groups , have different cognitive abilities. In addition , these indivuals have different emotional dispositions. Therefore , what appears to be a generation gap is , in fact , ever shifting posturing between the two members of a family.  These differences in attitudes and opinions are as much contextual as they are transient. The proof of this reasoning lies in the fact that with the passage of time the roles  change. The youngster who may have been rebellious would , after passage of time , become a staunch conformist. The individual changes her /his side but the arguments remain constant. Of course  , this scenario is broadly true and in every individual case , the details would vary.

        In the present context  , what is relevant is the fact that beneath this shifting attitudes there lies an emotional anchor.  Therefore the correct question is whether there is any thing like  emotional generation gap ? The answer , once again , is no. We undergo emotional changes as we grow old. Just as our emotions change , our attitudes and opinions change in accordance with our changed emotional landscape. In other words , our attitudes and opinions are faithful indicators of our emotional status.  As and when our emotions change  , there is corresponding change in our attitudes and opinions. In fact  , our emotions are in a state of flux. This is visible in our nuanced attitudes and opinions. Every time we experience the same emotions in different context ,  our attitudes and opinions become more nuanced. Therefore the generation gap is an artifact created out of our ever changing emotions.

        However , there is another factor that gives an appearance of permanence to this generation gap . As we grow old , our ability to experience emotions gets atrophied. Since our sensibility gets benumbed with aging , our attitudes and opinions harden.  As we grow old , we tend to become rigid . It is this age induced inflexibility that ensures that the generation gap is more pronounced. If parents were to have emotional flexibility , there would be a generation gap ,but it would be more of difference of opinions than a generation gap.

    In summary  , one can say that the notion of generation gap is a reflection of divergent emotions that different generations experience.  However  , it is not permanent and it is not inevitable. The most important insight into this notion of generation gap is that it derives itself from the human emotions which are universal.  Thus beneath this gap there exists a continuity of human emotions. Human emotions are same ,only our sensitivity to experience them changes.  This universality of human emotions allows all of us  , including individuals belonging to different generations ,  to form meaningful relationship with other individuals. Thus parents can form meaningful relationship with their children and vice versa.  This may not eliminate the generation gap but it would provide  a good bridge for mutual understanding.

        I have found this perspective while writing my second novel. In my second novel , the protagonist ages during the narrative. Along with aging ,  the protagonist’s views changes from rationality to faith in the  supernatural. The most surprising thing that I found was that his change from one extreme of rationality to the another extreme of irrational belief did not require any abrupt changes in his reasoning.  The transition was marked with smooth and almost logical changes in his mindset. More importantly  , this was brought about by the emotional underpinning of his unrequited love. While detailing his character, I realized that it is our emotions that alter our reasoning. We tend to justify our beliefs by putting out some logical arguments , whereas , in reality , our beliefs are  shaped by our emotions. The generation gap may or may not be real but there exists a definitive gap between what we think and what we feel. Our beliefs bridge this gap between our  emotions and our reasoning.

           In my next blog , .I would discuss how this notion of generation gap affects the choice of fiction that we like.  I would also discuss how can a novelist overcome this generation gap to reach wider readership.

             

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #20.

ARE OUR EMOTIONS BASED ON OUR GENDER  ?

        In my previous blog , I had discussed the role of a gender in writing  fiction.  I had discussed whether male novelists can create authentic female characters. The problem with the male novelists could be that they can imagine and characterize women in fiction but that would be depicting their own fancy of a woman and not necessarily a genuine woman. This is because , as I had argued in that blog , the way a man thinks could be different from the way a woman might think. However , I had suggested that since the characters in a novel are created by internalizing and empathising  the real persons in life , it is possible for male novelists to understand and empathise with women. I had ended that blog with a promise that I would discuss the emotions with respect to the gender. Therefore , in this blog , I would look at the gender issue from the types of emotions that we experience.

          My argument in the previous blog was that a novelist internalizes the emotions of a real person that she /he comes across in real life. This internalising and having an empathy are the starting points for creating a fictional character.  However, this reasoning presupposes that the emotions that a novelist experiences are universal and , more importantly, gender neutral.

          I am convinced that human emotions are universal because that is the reason why we can empathise with others. In fact , this universality of human emotions is the basis of fiction.  We enjoy reading fiction because we can identify with the emotions of fictional characters and experience catharsis. Even novelists are able write novels because they can transform their personal emotions into a universal expression. Therefore , there is no doubt that our emotions are universal. However , there is no agreement on whether our emotions are gender neutral.

           Let us , therefore , look at the question whether our emotions are really independent of our gender or not ? Unfortunately , there is no cogent answer to this question. Purely from the sociological perspective , there is no way to deny that there exists a gender based typecast roles for men and women.  This is true for all cultural and social backgrounds. From the human rights point of view  this disparity is glaring and needs to be addressed on war footing. However, the real question is whether this typecasting has any scientific and psychological basis or not ? Apparently ,  science does not have any precise answer to this question , at least not as yet. As we have learnt in case of LGBT community , forget emotions  , science has no explanation for even gender differences of all shades. This is because gender is not a simple function of a fixed number of genes. In case of emotions linked to the gender , it is still more complicated.

          In such a scenario  , how does one decide whether our emotions are really gender based or not ?  The answer lies in the fact that the emotions are not precise like logic is. Every single emotion that we can think of , has hundreds of finer nuances. If you recollect , Shakespeare famously said that love is a many splendored thing. This is true of not just love , but of all our emotions. Therefore , we are capable of experiencing infinitely many shades of emotions.  In fact  , since our individual experiences are tinted with unique melangé of shades of emotions  , we feel that we are unique. This feeling of being unique is valid because we can intuitively perceive the difference between our own experience and that of others. In other words  , we don’t analyse emotions ,either our own or other’s.  We simply intuitively experience them and know that they are different. Since we can experience infinitely many emotions, there is no bar on experiencing emotions that are typical of different genders. What possibly happens is that our early upbringing limits our exposure to limited number of role models which are incidentally typecast.  These role models ,  to whom we are exposed to in our formative years , limit our sensibility and therefore our ability to experience gender typical emotions.

      Returning to the question posed in the title  , I think the answer is no. However, this answer is qualified with the proviso that though the emotions are not gender based , our upbringing may limit us from experiencing emotions of genders different from our own gender. The proof of this conclusion lies in  our increasing acceptance of LGBT. This  has been possible because we have become less and less conditioned to reject alternative sexualities.  This sense of inclusiveness has been a gradual process of widening perspective during the formative years of succeeding generations.

     In my next blog ,  I would discuss the idea of a generation gap and whether it plays any role in writing fiction.