In addition to being a great novelist whom I will interview on my forthcoming podcast series, Adam Mansbach is my neighbor–or he would be if he didn’t keep popping off to other corners of the world with his amazing partner and fantastic child. However, one way to keep up with a writer is as a reader, and this essay makes up for a dozen great conversations (twice that with toddlers present). Check it out here.
Part autobiographical investigation, part sharp (as in accurate) analysis of the current state of race and racism in America, this piece is pleasurably articulate and concludes with a set of proposals I support, even if I cannot, as Adam guesses, quite fathom not only how the proposed townhall conversations would go but also what lasting impact they would have.
This is part of a larger skepticism I’ve identified in myself recently, one that is forcing me to look at examples of character change I’ve seen or experienced and to imagine what it would take to change the characters I know best. This brings us back to fiction, but to an element of fiction tied in closely with politics: the dictate that a character either change or face the opportunity to change and let it pass by.
Does this element require that we writers of fiction believe that people can change, or can be presented with real opportunities for change? I think it does. In truth, I know I’ve changed, but not all of those changes or even most of them reflect the kind of change I necessarily want to create in my imaginary worlds. There are many parts of being a writer that people complain about and lament, but the need to maintain an optimistic sense that people change frequently and significantly is not one I hear discussed. I’d love to hear your thoughts.