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Pickle Me This

August 9, 2007

The non-presence of friends

“I have been careful to give Alicia a few friends. It’s curious how friends get left out of novels, but I can see how it happens. Blame it on Hemingway, blame it on Conrad, blame even Edith Wharton, but the modernist tradition has set the individual, the conflicted self, up against the world. Parents (loving or negligent) are admitted to fiction, and siblings (weak, envious or self-destructive) have a role. But the non-presence of friends is almost a convention– there seems no room for friends in a narrative already cluttered with event and the tortuous vibrations of the inner person. Nevertheless, I like to sketch in a few friends in the hope they will provide a release from a profound novelistic isolation that might otherwise ring hollow and smell suspicious.” –Carol Shields, Unless

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