On the Representation of Human Relationships in Literature


Most of the books I’ve read in the past few years placed a heavy focus on romance and love. Even the ones that didn’t deal with these themes explicitly had subtexts that had to do with them. Now this isn’t to say they weren’t tolerable, — some of these books happen to be my favourites — but I wish so many books (even films and songs, for that matter) weren’t so obsessed with love. There are many other kinds of human relationships that we could explore instead.

One problem I have with a lot of books about romance and love is that they seldom scratch past the surface of a certain experience to talk about something bigger, or at least signal such a move. Few even care to wonder about the possibility of such transcendence. They’re mostly content with appealing to a reader’s sympathy/desire/joy and, in doing so, rely wholly on the process of self-identification of the reader with the narrative. As readers we, too, have come to internalise that.

And love sells, of course, — even I know that — but I’m thinking about this purely from an ideological/principled point of view; the economics of it is largely immaterial to me. Moreover, it’s never a one-way traffic when it comes to art: the concept of “what sells” is shaped as much by the (expectation of the) audience as by the creators/distributors of artistic production.


The most obvious solution is to pick the books I read more carefully. but, as an aspiring writer, I must also try to do what little I can to correct this imbalance.

So, for months I’d been looking for a more interesting dynamic to examine, — something that doesn’t have such a huge, pervasive, constricting cultural myth built around it as romantic love does — and now a brief conversation on Facebook has presented me with an answer. I am going to spend the next few years of my life exploring our relationships with things (esp. technology), animals, ideas, and places instead — in short, our relationship with the inanimate/abstract/nonhuman.

This isn’t just about rejecting trends but also about trying to understand the underlying assumptions/principles that inform them. To reject these trends properly, I will have to first understand what it is I’m rejecting. Familiarising myself with these assumptions/principles can also inform my perspective in a different way, — intent does matter, after all — and that’s what I need to start working on.