On fiction

Not a subject I think about very often, and the rest of the article is about writers I don’t want to read, but the lead paragraph certainly brought me up short:

Good fiction has never been about moral instruction; it would be much easier to write if it were. Its more imposing task is to do justice to the inexhaustible complexity of human motivation. Because our motives are often hidden from us, because the canvas of even our own experience can be too much for our eye to take in, we look to writers to help make comprehensible the reasons why people act the way they act, why they transgress, why they fail to transgress. In this respect the fictional outlaw has at least as much to teach us as the upright citizen—a principle older than Céline or Shakespeare or Milton, perhaps as old as storytelling itself.

from Harper’s Magazine: Ready-Made Rebellion