How We Write On Social Tragedy
Ten years ago, today…
No, I can’t start like that.
Oh, fine, maybe I can.
I have been thinking about this day for almost a decade. Yes, I am an anniversary lady.
That being said, while I may have been anticipating the way our nation would find itself ten years following the events of September 11, 2001, I myself have no real thoughts on the event that are deeply personal or different than anyone else’s who lost no one. I was close in proximity, the day the towers fell, even if I wasn’t close to anyone lost. I had just moved to New York for school, just met my future (now, current) husband and was headed to my second week of classes. 20 miles away, things went, I suppose you might say, terribly wrong, one Tuesday morning.
The way I think it effected me the most, as a then budding political science major, was in the macroscopic. Because the tragedy unfolded hours into my four-year degree of studying the world, my next several years were dedicated to very different focuses than they would have been, I’m sure, had the towers not been brought down.
At the time, I was ahead of the current Dystopian curve, making remarks about Orwellian reactions to crisis but it seems like even that reaction has been well mulled over at this point.
Instead of waxing political as I am prone to doing when I start thinking about such things, I thought I’d go after a different topic.
It seems that in the literary world, the biggest question circulating, right now, centers on the appropriate amount of time that we feel is socially acceptable for the release of novels, memoirs and other literary art pieces on the subject of a traumatic event. For me, it is a question of art. Though I am not drawn to the myriad outpourings of emotional recounts of the events, I do think that it’s important to support our emotional health as a society in many different ways.
The argument some are proposing of ten years falling too soon after the tragedy regarding publishing pieces, doesn’t resonate with me. For me, literature is art and art is a reflection of us as a people. Most physical art, music, stage or visual, is done very much in the moment. So why, then would literature be swiped to the side? Many of the best commentary and thought-provoking writing we have on past events were written at high noon of whatever crisis was occurring.
So, will I read all of the 9/11 books? Probably won’t go near a one. Do I think they are acceptable at this stage in the game? Yes. I think that they are acceptable and necessary and I hope to high hope that we, as a culture never stop writing and talking and creating when it comes to the things that we both suffer and enjoy, together.