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Court3 comments on Serious Stories - Less Wrong

39 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 January 2009 11:49PM

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Comment author: Court3 09 January 2009 03:24:08AM 1 point [-]

I was just going to chime in with Down And Out in the Magic Kingdom. There's a Utopia where there's striving, and existential pain.

But I shouldn't comment too much on it, because I got too bored to finish it. In the first page it is revealed that characters will survive until the "heat death of the universe." Given that premise, I quickly surmised that any dilemmas would be sort of, well, boring without the threat of imminent death. Based on that one small example I would say there is something necessary about the threat of death and lesser forms of tragedy, to maintain the needed literary tension to keep those pages turning.

Suggested reading:

Aristotle's Poetics for the ancient, and I think incorrect, theory for tragedy as catharsis.

Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy for the view that tragedy gives meaning to our ultimately meaningless striving. Based on the pre-Platonic view of life under the thumb of despotic Greek gods, i.e., fate. (Or so Nietzsche says.)

A little off topic, but Cormac McCarthy said that he "doesn't understand" fiction that doesn't have death in it. Why write it? he's saying. Or, from our perspective, why read it?