Back to pizza… and an emotional truth

Thanks to everyone who participated in my poll to identify the culinary traits for which Viking Pizza, the local hang-out in my fictional town of Yatesville, is known. And as the majority guessed, the correct answer is….All of the above! Those of you with an emotional connection to Sir Pizza, the legendary pizza restaurant in my hometown of Asheboro, had a definite edge because this place is the model for Viking Pizza. I haven’t seen a Sir Pizza menu in so long that I couldn’t swear that the wine-baked ham sandwich is still offered. Can someone confirm? At any rate, what’s important is that the sandwich will forever live in my heart, which is the true vessel of truth.

And on that subject, today I was sifting through quotes by Joyce Cary, who I’ve mentioned before and is the author of one of my favorite novels, The Horse’s Mouth. He wasn’t the kind of person who could just spit out witticisms like Winston Churchill or Cicero. Instead, like a true writer, he saved his best lines for his characters. However, I happened to stumble upon a quote that is simply a gem. It’s a rare reflection of his on the writing process.

A novel should be an experience and convey an emotional truth rather than arguments.

Doesn’t that just sing to you? Not just among my writer friends, but to fellow readers as well. The novels that have made the most impact on me deal less with exacting descriptions or plot, but with an emotional truth. I realize that this is sort of deep for a Thursday night but I promise that it does go back to the pizza. What makes a little place like Viking Pizza or Sir Pizza so special is not the type of pepperoni or shape of the slices, but the emotions it evokes in its patrons.

The same goes for novels. Take The Horse’s Mouth, for example, whose main character is a down-and-out painter trying to revive his career. The plot is interesting and comic, but the emotional truth is what lingers: Gulley Jimson’s tragic obsession to make himself immortal. Take a much more recent novel, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. The book’s technique is unusual in that it has a ghost as an integral character. The author does a brilliant job of describing how the ghost moves and her physical sensations. But what really brings the book alive for me is the ghost’s emotional state of mind, particularly her refusal to be forgotten. And like Mr. Jimson, isn’t this a universal emotion? The desire to live forever in some way?

What universal truths have you uncovered in fiction? Think about it, and share it here!


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