Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Freshman Philosophers and Sophmore Sages, You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Humanity

“The lies in novels are not gratuitous — they fill in the insufficiencies of life,” he wrote. “Thus, when life seems full and absolute, and men, out of an all-consuming faith, are resigned to their destinies, novels perform no service at all. Religious cultures produce poetry and theater, not novels. Fiction is an art of societies in which faith is undergoing some sort of crisis, in which it’s necessary to believe in something, in which the unitarian, trusting and absolute vision has been supplanted by a shattered one and an uncertainty about the world we inhabit and the afterworld.” --Mario Vargas Llosa

I'm thinking as I write here, so bear with me:

It was announced yesterday that Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian writer, won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature. I wish I could say that I was erudite and well-read enough to have expected it--that he had been short-listed for the Prize for a while and it's about time the Nobel committee got on with it. But, no, I'd never heard of him.

I loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez, another South American Nobel laureate. Love in the Time of Cholera has stuck with me lo these many years. But Vargas Llosa? Today I'm going to order one of his reputed masterpieces, Aunt Julia and the Script Writer. What intrigues me about Llosa is that they say he writes about many things and does it well, but that the pervasive, central theme in all his writing is about art and writing itself. The article on him I'm reading here on the Internet says, Varga's themes are "....a fascination with the human craving for freedom (be it political, social or creative) and the liberation conferred by art and imagination." Ah, that rings a pure-toned bell in the very middle of my soul.

Bottom line here is that artists/writers must always be questing and questioning; that writing novels is always about the dark-happy and glorious battle to expose and fill in the "insufficiencies" of life." A personal belief system that eliminates uncertainties through an absolute and "all-consuming" blind faith will not produce--will actually forbid the production of--great literature for the simple and tragic reason that it sees no need for it and will destroy those who seek to address those insufficiencies.

Of course, absolute certainty is a horrific notion. I'm thinking of tyrannical governments and fundamentalist religion here, the cause for so much suffering through the millenia and, of course, such are what Llosa and all other true artists have always been thinking about.

It is ironic, isn't it, that art and science, those two human endeavors that seem so opposite in mindset, purpose, and methodologies, are seeking the same goal--the elimination of human misery and so the inculcation of human happiness? But it is, of course, true. Both art and science seek truth through experimentation and revision. Both art and science are never finished, never absolute, must always be willing to admit that they might be wrong. Is it any wonder, then, that religion and tyranny have always sought to suppress, through terror and violence if necessary, the free expression of art and the free investigations of science?

There. I'm done thinking for the day. I'm worn out, brain afire. And, of course, all these thoughts have been thought before, endlessly, by freshman philosophers and sophmore sages. But every generation must think them anew or suffer the consequences of losing wisdom won at a great price by the generations that came before.

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