It's a teachable moment for all of us who are not his daughter, as well.
Anyway, I was exulting in the Non-Standard No-Routine Saturday, when my daughter came into my study and asked me to read what she’s been writing.
And here I have a dilemma. Let me tell you about the fiction young girls are writing: it’s horrible. Not in the literary sense, necessarily, although that’s often the case. It’s the subject matter. Thanks to the influence of Harry Potter, stories usually begin with the death of the parents, the discovery of Powers, and so on. The darkness is a constant. She shows me the work of her peers, and it’s all horribly dark - and these are kids with happy merry easy lives. On one hand I get it: you write the opposite, summon the fears, confront them. But on the other hand: for heaven’s sake, what’s the matter here? You’re all eleven or twelve or 13 - that tremulous witching year - and you associate the Dark with the Profound. I get it. But as I told my daughter: Dark is easy. Bright is hard.
She told me how she wanted to end her story, and it had a flat rote nihilistic twist. Not because she’s dark or goth or anything, but because that’s the dominant literary model. So I kept posing questions: what if this happened? Or that? Or this? Trying to push her to see the twist at the end of the story as a release, a flock of aspirations taking flight, a break in the clouds. Oh my vs. uh huh. And she got it.
Dark is easy. Bright is hard.
Find Lileks here.