Though I try to write classy so as not to estrange my parents, my realistic audience, I’ve come to realize that I don’t write class-y enough. Social class should actually be at the cornerstone of my novel, because running away from the concept of it is at the very heart of my main character. How can I show the heart of my main character if I avoid the thing altogether?
A blog post called “Fictitious Values” on Book Forum speaks of the necessity of class in a modern novel, in which all too often novelists who hide out on university campuses try their best to ignore the issue. Novelists aren’t money-minded people, the article reads, so it is not at the forefront of their characters’ minds either. The blog post speculates on the soon to be ubiquitous Occupy Wall Street novels.
(photo from Mario Tama, Getty Images)
My main character and I share a similar illusion and misunderstanding about money as well. It goes a little like,if I just didn’t have to use it…
Jillian is trying to negotiate being a hippie in a world where hippies just can’t happen anymore. How can one escape real life when real life has pervaded everything? Where are the convents? The tree houses? Living in Vancouver feels especially frightening. We are in nature, we just can’t get away from the people. Try doing the Grouse Grind, the opposite of a hike.
(photo from Up Magazine)
But where in my book is this money? It’s in the hands of the characters of Jillian’s wealthy parents. Her father owns a fictionally powerful company. Her mother has face lifts. They live in a penthouse apartment on the water in West Vancouver.
Jillian doesn’t want any of this money, or this lifestyle. She sees her sister, who was once a free-spirit like herself, move to Victoria and get a job as a realtor. Jillian sees a dreadful academic future at the university from which she is about to get her PhD. She sees her boyfriend, who wears suits. She doesn’t want any of it. She doesn’t want to join the real world. She doesn’t want money.
But what good is a discussion of money if I don’t show the other side of the class system? What would happen to Jillian if she lets go of her parents’ money and doesn’t get a job she doesn’t want? Where is that example in my book?
My book is trying to show that there is another, outlying choice, outside of poverty, outside of wealth, outside of the middle class. (It’s become obvious I’m writing a book as a form of consolation, of keeping up an illusion for myself.) But can my novel even show a solution like this without completely addressing the question of class, all sides of it?
No, I don’t think it can. I think I need to dissect class and disintegrate it. Jillian needs to escape from something, after all. Hopefully she can.