January 10, 2013

"Be a Sadist."

Rule #6 on Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing a short story:
No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
This is a problem I have with fiction. Characters are created for you to care about and the author invents torments for them — for us to enjoy. Have you ever written a fictional story and experienced sick excitement as you contemplated what you were about to do that poor unsuspecting sympathetic character you created? Or do you only read fiction. If you're able to get into fiction, is it because you fully trust the author to deliver the titillation of bad things happening to this sweet leading character?

This is a line of thought that brings me back around to an opinion I've arrived at from other directions as well: Give children nonfiction to read.

74 comments:

Pogo said...

"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
- G.K. Chesterton

That said, I myself have always preferred nonfiction. Maybe INTJs can't enjoy fiction, would be my guess.

sparrow said...

There's no shortage of bad things happening to good people in real life, so I don't follow why your critique of fiction points to nonfiction.

Ann Althouse said...

@sparrow Because in fiction, the author has given over his mind to sadism to produce the story and you are putting yourself in his hands.

In nonfiction, the bad thing has happened, and the author is describing it, explaining it, and is in a position to adopt mindsets other than sadism.

Shouting Thomas said...

The way to understand the contemporary world is through reading about technology and learning math.

I'd encourage my kids to become nerds.

Reading fiction seems likely to become a pretty archaic skill once the new story telling medium, full immersion 3D takes over.

AllenS said...

In the beginning, I grew up sweet and innocent, and then I caught the flu. Now I want to kill someone.

The End

Shana said...

Vonnegut was a children's author? Who knew?

And, what Pogo said via Chesterton.

Tibore said...

Vonnegut's done nothing more than recite the standard rule that genuine drama in narratives requires conflict. If you torture your character, you induce conflict.

Granted, it's an old saw that's also led to much bad fiction where the conflict is contrived, so the characters reactions are contrived as well, but no one ever said that there's a magic formula to writing good drama.

AllenS said...

You want bad fiction? Check out these reality shows on TV.

wyo sis said...

Vonnegut calls it sadism. He thinks that way. It isn't sadism. It's life. Good fiction can be more like life than nonfiction. Seeing what your character is made if is the function of life itself for everyone. Reading about how a fictional character faces their trials is inspiring or, at least, instructive.
Nonfiction is wonderful and important, but it's, at it's best, an informed guess at what really happened.

Surfed said...

I've just finished my first young adult novel about four teenagers who discover that the Japanese are about to attack Pearl Harbor but can't get any of the adults in their lives to believe them. Lot's of bad things (within reason) happen to them and the sailors and people of Hawaii. It was fun to plot, write and talk about in my young adult focus groups when they read it for the first time. So I've belended a small dollop of fiction with 99% strict historical accuracy for, as one teenager said, "that book was straight up!". Which, if you're not familiar with teenage lingo, is a compliment.

Shouting Thomas said...

The contemporary fiction environment is video games.

The user gets to do something, instead of playing the part of passive receptacle.

And the purpose is to acquire skills and behaviors.

Hard to imagine why any young person would waste their time in the dying world of literary fiction. That era is over, except for people who want to make their living in academia.

In the not too distant future, the full immersion 3D environment!

Tank said...

I don't know. I just finished two non-fiction books, Nate Silver's and Penn Gillette's. Next up, Thomas Wolfe.

Will I learn less from Wolfe than the others? Enjoy it less? Gain fewer insights?

Don't know.

As far as the "sadism," what kind of story is it where the characters are all nice, and nothing negative ever happens? A really boring story that no one would read 50 pages of.

Caedmon said...

Have you ever written a fictional story and experienced sick excitement as you contemplated what you were about to do that poor unsuspecting sympathetic character you created?

Oh yes.
Sometimes I've been shaken and appalled too.

traditionalguy said...

The histories being written since WWII has the writing skills beyond compare. What happened to the millions of folks from 1933 until 1945 was sadism galore.

Off hand, history written as fiction by James Michener starting with Tales of the South Pacific and then Chesapeake and Centennial are great writing based upon the emotions of men at war.

I recently reread Catch-22 and The Cain Mutiny. Great writing again.

Astro said...

The Count of Monte Cristo, 1844, Edmond Dantes has comitted no crime but is sentenced to the Chateau d'If.
More than a century before Vonnegut.

Pete said...

But isn't Fitzgeral, among all his beautiful sentences in Gatsby, treating his characters sadistically? And aren't you enjoying it? Or are you just there for the pretty scenery?

carrie said...

I read, but don't write, fiction. I also love to read biographies because what Vonnegut describes really does happen in real life and I love reading about how real people overcome whatever hits them. Of course, there are people whose lives seem to be charmed and nothing really bad ever happens to them and their biographies don't get written either becasue no one would read them just as no one would read fiction if nothing much happened to the main character.

Astro said...

"...what kind of story is it where the characters are all nice, and nothing negative ever happens? A really boring story that no one would read 50 pages of.

It's 'Winnie The Pooh'. One of the greatest books ever written.

Erika said...

(Spoiler alert for those watching the Hunger Games movies who haven't read the books.)






I wonder if Suzanne Collins was thinking, "Be a sadist," when she had Peeta fall into the tortuous hands of the Capitol and had Prim preventably die at the hands of District 13, or if Joss Whedon did when he ran a pike through Wash and killed the gentle and amusing Shepherd Book in the movie Serentity.

I always read/watch bad things happen to characters I'm fond of, and wish they wouldn't, but accept that fiction doesn't work without that emotional push-pull.

Erika said...

oops, Serenity. Although I like the thought of a serene entity.

Shana said...

ST, I know lots of teenagers who both read AND play video games. Some of them are my own teenagers. They waited anxiously for the release of The Hobbit movie, because it was a favorite childhood book.

It isn't surprising that Vonnegut thought in terms of being sadistic to his characters. From his perspective, I am sure he believed that the cosmos, or god in whom he didn't believe, or fate, or whatever, had been rather sadistic to him.

Rory Moore said...

Just one more reason why I almost exclusively read nonfiction.

Rory Moore said...

Just one more reason why I almost exclusively read nonfiction.

Shana said...

Exactly, Carrie. Good subjects for a biography are those whose lives seem the most like fiction.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I think maybe I get where Althouse is coming from.

I read fiction from time to time, watch it on TV, but it's much more like taking apart a watch to see how it works than caring about people who are mere contrivances.

I know this doddering old lady who refers to Katie Couric as her "girlfriend." That is a state of mind very much to be avoided.

There were these people on the internet who argued on and on about whether Tony Soprano died in the very last episode, as if he were a real person and as if something were to be gained from a correct answer.

I genuinely envy people so easily entertained.

EMD said...

As a screenwriter, you are told to put your characters through hell.

Now, hell has varying degrees.

Consider Toy Story, where the characters 'hell' is much different than yours.

Tank said...

Astro said...
"...what kind of story is it where the characters are all nice, and nothing negative ever happens? A really boring story that no one would read 50 pages of.

It's 'Winnie The Pooh'. One of the greatest books ever written.


LOL.

No.

Winnie has many things happen to him. He gets stuck in a tree with the bees, he gets stuck trying to wiggle through a "tight place,' he runs out of honey, etc. And what of the travails of Eyeore, that poor soul?

Shana said...

“He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.”

“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Whereas, he says of one the heroic characters,Reepicheep the mouse: “For his mind was full of forlorn hopes, death-or-glory charges, and last stands.”

Henry said...

Give children nonfiction to read.

My 5th-grade son has been assigned a book report on Hernan Cortes. I'm kind of proud of the school for throwing that out there. This should be interesting.

I mostly don't read fiction because its boring. It's not boring because I know what's going to happen -- what fiction I like I reread -- it's because the drama, however violent or extreme, is packaged in banality. It's programmed, sterile, pathetic, or, in the case of happy endings, saccharine.

History doesn't wrap things up so neatly. The great historian Hugh Thomas begins the preface of Conquest with a disarmingly subversive statement: This book tells how a small party of well-led adventurers fought against a large static monarchy. The historian is not afraid of complication.

Astro said...

Tank -- Yes, of course I know all of those 'terrible' things that happened to Winnie and his friends.
But the reader knows no one is going to die, get stabbed, tortured, or have anyting 'sadistic' happen to them.

Another one of the greatest books ever written where nothing much happens to the main characters - certainly nothing sadistic like Vonnegut suggests - is James Joyce's 'Ulysses'.

Ann Althouse said...

"As far as the "sadism," what kind of story is it where the characters are all nice, and nothing negative ever happens? A really boring story that no one would read 50 pages of."

That's the point. Fiction requires that you torture a nice person for fun.

Ann Althouse said...

"But isn't Fitzgeral, among all his beautiful sentences in Gatsby, treating his characters sadistically? And aren't you enjoying it? Or are you just there for the pretty scenery?"

I'm reading isolated sentences right now, but I have read the whole story a couple times. Don't remember all the details.

I'm not saying I never consume fictional stories (i.e., never derive pleasure from this sadism). I'm just pointing out that there is built-in sadism in constructing a fictional plot.

Maybe there are some exceptions. But can you think of any good stories that are exceptions. The basic "plot skeleton" is a protagonist and he's got a problem and he solves it.

You want a sympathetic protagonist and then you have to torment him. That's why the reader cares.

Ann Althouse said...

"Vonnegut was a children's author? Who knew?"

Well, here he's being an adviser to other writers, anyone who writes stories.

You know who's a great story writer, writing for children? Roald Dahl. Check out what he does to kids. And I think he hated kids, right?

Shana said...

So, do you think Tolkien, for instance, tortured his characters for fun?

Can you really apply Vonnegut's maxim to all writers of fiction? Vonnegut and Tolkien both went through difficult war experiences, but it doesn't seem to have affected them in the same way. Their books have a completely different tone and feel to them. Despair vs. hope.

Shana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shana said...

Of course, we can go back around to the point that art imitates life. People read biographies that read like fiction. That's life. How do you cope with adversity? How do you overcome the slings and arrows of fate? Do you behave in a cowardly or a brave fashion? Are you kind or a bully? Whether or not the character is real makes no difference, I think.

rhhardin said...

Lautreamont, in Maldoror, has a rape chapter actually about the rape of the reader by the writer.

Other chapters are about other aspects of writing.

Tank said...

Astro

Yiiii. Now I have to go read Ulysses to see if you're right.

Shana said...

I daresay that most kids who enjoy reading fiction, do not get a twisted sense of enjoyment from the main character's sufferings. rather, they identify with the character and want them to pull through, hoping that they could do the same in the circumstances. It is a way of working through various moral and dangerous situations, practicing for real life. It is exercising the moral imagination, and learning to walk a mile in another's shoes. I'd bet your average reader of good fiction (and perhaps that's a very important distinction) has a better developed sense of empathy than your average non-reader of fiction. At least that has been my experience. My husband regularly draws on fictional characters to find a common talking point with youngsters about morality, politics, social issues, etc. Works like a charm.

mikee said...

I recall Mario Puzo, in Fools Die, killing off a female romantic interest with a sudden brain aneurism in one paragraph, after it became obvious that the protagonist was enjoying himself too much to finish the plot with her around.

edutcher said...

Think Jonah.

PS I love it when the good guys win. Consider "Stagecoach", when the marshal offers to buy Doc a drink, and he replies, "Just one".

EMD said...

I think a lot of people here are reading too much into the word 'sadist.'

Shana said...

"You know who's a great story writer, writing for children? Roald Dahl. Check out what he does to kids. And I think he hated kids, right?"

He had five children of his own. Maybe he was like me and just hated other's people's kids.

I don't have any Dahl fans in my house, so I'm not real up on his biography, other than knowing that he was another WW2 vet, and ace fighter pilot, or something like that. We're E.B. White people around here.

Synova said...

I don't know an author at all that enjoys making bad things happen to their sympathetic characters.

It's hard. Someone reads it fast and it's over, but as the author you wallow in it because you have to. Writing is slow and as you write you have to think about what it all means. I can read deaths and hardship and sometimes I cry, but if I'm writing someone having a bad day or artistically dying at the end I bawl my eyes out the whole time... that's if I can write it at all.

But genre fiction doesn't generally torment the character for the sake of torment (unless, perhaps, it's horror) but to create obstacles that can be overcome for the triumph and happy ending.

"Literature" may be different.

Synova said...

"Because in fiction, the author has given over his mind to sadism to produce the story and you are putting yourself in his hands.

In nonfiction, the bad thing has happened, and the author is describing it, explaining it, and is in a position to adopt mindsets other than sadism.
"

Er... Truman Capote?

True crime seems more sadistic than fiction to me because in fiction (though perhaps not "literature") the hardship is there in service to triumph, not sadistic ends, but an author that chooses to delve into the worst horror of human experience, depravity and evil... how does a person do that?

Molly said...

What nonfiction do you suggest giving children to read? William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?

How about Shakespeare? Should we ban Shakespeare (for kids, at least), because bad things happen to innocent people (for example, Ophelia? Desdemona?) I can't buy Shakesepare as a sadist, try as I might.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Maybe INTJs can't enjoy fiction, would be my guess

I like fiction and I am decidedly an INTJ. Science Fiction, Alternate History Fiction, Historical Fiction, certain Fantasy types of fiction, Mysteries that make you think. Fiction with highly developed characters, that have depth of emotion and that are fully fleshed out.

Can't stand those sappy romance novels, or fiction that is so stupid and contrived...Sue Grafton...I'm looking at YOU....that you wonder how the characters can be so stupid, such dim bulbs and still survive.

To deprive children of fictional reading and limit their imaginations and limit their ability to be able to "put themselves into the other person's situation" is a cruel, shortsighted and frankly extremely STUPID thing to advocate or to do.

Pogo said...

@DBQ

So it's just me. Figgers.

sydney said...

I wouldn't give children non-fiction to read. It is better to introduce them to reading through fiction, and to life, through fiction. As long as it is the kind of fiction that has hope in it - like the Hobbit, like Winnie-the-Pooh, the Narnia stories, E.B. White's children's books, and even Roald Dahl's children's books. Bad things happen to children in the Dahl books, but the children always overcome them in the end. Those kinds of books teach children not to give into despair when life gets rough.

Non-fiction books for children tend to be too preachy and boring, with the exception of the Magic School Bus series.

Only later in their lives would I recommend non-fiction. Around adolescence. Then I would recommend good biographies and histories. I've noticed, though, that my kids' non-fiction tastes tended to books about science. I don't believe I have ever seen one of them reading a history or biography on their own. I must have failed somewhere along the line. Or read them too many Magic School Bus books.

Shana said...

@DBQ

Hooyah!

Michael K said...

The only fiction I read is from about five writers; Neville Shute, Tom Clancy, WEB Griffin, Mary Renault and Earnest Hemingway. Only two are still alive.

deborah said...

As a kid, I never got the attraction of Dahl. Thought he was an ugly, simplistic writer.

I have somewhere an autobiography of Flannery O'Connor (I think). She has some great short stories with plot twists. It will be interesting to discover her thinking.

I have read that sometimes fiction writers take a back seat to their characters, and are amazed at what they do as the story writes itself.

I don't think Vonnegut is that reliable as an instructor. He was a singular type guy, a depressant, I think. I read a book of his essays once (with Granfaloons(?) in the title). Rather a depressing take on reality. I highly enjoyed his fiction as a teen, but find them tedious now.

Paddy O said...

"Have you ever written a fictional story and experienced sick excitement as you contemplated what you were about to do that poor unsuspecting sympathetic character you created?"

Ummm, yes, but I'm not sure it was sick excitement.

In fiction the slate is blank and if you want a plot, things have to happen. And people are in fact shown for what they are by bad things happening.

Who would read a story that's just the goings-on of the reasonably successful, average day of an upper-middle class couple who don't have problems?

A blog sure. Of course people would read that... but no one would buy or write that book.

"If you're able to get into fiction, is it because you fully trust the author to deliver the titillation of bad things happening to this sweet leading character?"

Well, I wrote a book that was about the theology of bad things happening to people, using a fictional community of people as an example, so for the book to proceed bad things had to happen to them.

Christopher Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Smith said...

Characters are created for you to care about...

I see this approach to reading a lot, but I believe it is fundamentally flawed. Characters are not created so that you can invest in them emotionally, and feel emotionally rewarded by their successes. Characters are vehicles by which the author reveals something greater: about psychology, society, human nature, or whatever. You must be able to identify with characters, so you can recognize what they reveal in your own character, life or society, but thinking of them as your friends whom you merely want to succeed unequivocally misses the point of literature.

What the author wants to reveal can vary widely. French naturalists wanted to reveal the inescapability of heredity and environment to the poor. Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga uses the premise of backup human memory to query the nature of human identity as a continuing consciousness. "Where the Wild Things Are" creates a fantasy within a fantasy to explore children's anger and frustration. And Akutagawa Ryunosuke created compellingly eerie and macabre stories because he believed human psychology could only be deeply probed by placing characters in extraordinary situations (his work is adapted in the well-known movie Rashomon). Things don't always turn out well for characters in these works (especially those of the naturalists!), but they all nonetheless reveal something about psychology, emotion, society or the human condition that make them valuable literature.

It's disheartening to see so many people here who have given up on fiction. I believe fiction has the power to narrow our focus onto an individual or a moment and reveal something about it, crystallizing an argument in a way that, I think, non-fiction cannot. Fiction has been a bedrock of our cultural discourse ever since it was separated from the other belles lettres for that very reason.

Robert Cook said...

"Fiction requires that you torture a nice person for fun."

Oh, please.

Fiction is a means by which the writer--and his or her readers--share in a thought experiment of sorts in which to experience imaginatively and vicariously the manifold experiences, both good and bad, that human beings may experience in the world.

Skyler said...

Kurt Vonnegut is a monster and a coward and I can't stomach him. I've tried to read his book about how he was so unmanly, cowardly and incompetent that his actions resulted in the heroes getting killed and he was captured alive, but I just couldn't take it all the way through. Why anyone admires him is beyond me.

ricpic said...

Philip Roth advised a young writer to write as though her parents were dead. Which is to say: take the governor off.

EMD said...

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.”

― Lloyd Alexander

Robert Cook said...

"Kurt Vonnegut is a monster and a coward..."--why?

"I've tried to read his book about how he was so unmanly, cowardly and incompetent that his actions resulted in the heroes getting killed and he was captured alive, but I just couldn't take it all the way through. Why anyone admires him is beyond me."

Huh, no surprise there. The fault lies in you, and not with the book, (I presume you mean SLAUGHTERHOUSE-5, his masterpiece.)

William said...

I read a biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy. In the enchanted forest of the Paris twenties, they were the most enchanted creatures. They were both born wealthy, and Sara was a great beauty. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso were all in love with her. Gerald was a talented artist. Picasso thought highly of his work.....They were generous with their time, money, and affections. They paid for the doctors who took care of the Hemingways' sick child. They forgave the boorish scenes that the Fitzgeralds created at their dinners.....They were fine people in every way, but their kindness was not repaid by their writer friends. They were depicted by Hemingway as "the pilot fish" in A Moveable Feast and the Divers couple in Tender is the Night was modelled upon them. Bad enough that they were good looking and rich, but they had to add the aggravation of being talented and good. Who can blame Hemingway and Fitzgerald for hating them......Anyway, here's how their life turned out. One young son came down with TB. They took him to a sanitorium where he endured a wretched illness and then died. While in attendance on their young son, their younger son cam down with mastoiditis and died a quick death......Life throws more shit at you than even the most talented and spiteful writers can think up.

Ignacio said...

This is the latest in a long series of rants against literature Althouse goes off on every so often.

There was a moment back in let's say 2005 or so when it seemed Althouse might be on the verge of realizing her true ambition -- to become a TV personality -- but somehow it just didn't happen. It's too bad. I would have watched. I guess.

ken in sc said...

If you have read Joyce's 'Ulysses', and 'Finnegans Wake', you should read George Singleton's book 'Novel'. Especially if you have some connection or knowledge of the western Carolinas. It is a most delicious parody of James Joyce. Both the characters and the readers are treated sadistically.

George lives near me in Dacusville. We are not acquaintances, but I see him around and recognize him from Book TV on CSPAN.

Mitchell the Bat said...

It's a proven scientific fact. It starts with cruelty to fictional characters. Next thing you know it's animals and then real people.

Peter said...

'Shouting Thomas' said, "Reading fiction seems likely to become a pretty archaic skill once the new story telling medium, full immersion 3D takes over."

Perhaps. But one can argue with a book- after all, it's just ink on paper. One can easily interrupt one's reading in order to think about the plot, characters, etc.

Whereas immersive media are (and are intended to be) overwhelming. You can turn it off, of course (unless you're trapped in an airport, bus, etc.). But you can't really argue with it- your choice is only to let it overwhelm you or to shut it down.

Aside from that, no one in Hollywood seems to have lower status in Hollywood than writers- and it shows in the often poorly crafted plots, lack of character development, etc., in the product.

People still buy fiction because they want to read the author. People buy movies because they want to see their favorite stars.

Will "full immersion 3D" media replace it's-just-words fiction? I dunno, but I surely hope not.

Revenant said...

"Be a sadist"

Certainly a rule George R. R. Martin took to heart...

carrie said...

I will never give up reading. I like to imagine what a book's characters and their voices are like, not see and hear some other person's idea of what they sould be like. I am often disappoited with the casting when a book is made into a movie and with the narrator's voice if I am listening to an audio book.

carrie said...

I will never give up reading. I like to imagine what a book's characters and their voices are like, not see and hear some other person's idea of what they sould be like. I am often disappoited with the casting when a book is made into a movie and with the narrator's voice if I am listening to an audio book.

Robert Cook said...

Video games can never replace story telling in prose, as they cannot match the interiority of prose.

This is why some books--even many that are filmed, are unfilmable.

A mere depiction of the exterior action and dialogue misses the internal stuff of a novel or story...which is where the real action is.

traditionalguy said...

One thing to remember is that some children are born with old souls.

I am not a reincarnation fan, but the occaisional grandchild is just tuned into the old folks more than his/her competitive sublings.

Those kids devour biographies looking for who they are...they sense that they are not children.

IMO, they are the great ones.

Shana said...

Going back to Ann's previous posts about teaching kids to read using non-fiction - most modern schools use twaddle and dreck both in fiction and non-fiction. Whether it is dry-as-dust textbooks, angst-filled novels, or Maya Angelou poetry, no wonder so many kids learn to hate reading. Homeschoolers excel at teaching reading and homeschool catalogs are a feast of wonderful books, both non-fiction and fiction. Homeschoolers also tend to teach history this way. My 3rd grader is studying Greece and Rome this year, and is reading a variety of historical fiction, mythology, biography, etc. to fill out the names and dates.

Revenant said...

Video games can never replace story telling in prose, as they cannot match the interiority of prose.

That's one way of looking at it. But I see your claim as being exactly wrong.

Prose is entirely external; everything about the story is presented to you, in a manner outside your control, by the author. Sure, you can bring your own meaning to it, but you can do that to anything. People can imbue meaning into bad weather; that's where storm gods come from.

Interactive storytelling, i.e. "video games", are the opposite. There is no theoretical limit on how personal each story can be. Certainly many games attempt to ape older mediums like prose or film and railroad the story in a particular direction, but increasing efforts are being made to avoid that sort of thing.

You've heard writers claim that a story they wrote didn't turn out the way they expected (which always seemed pretentious to me, since they wrote and edited the thing). Interactive stories can not only honestly turn out differently from what the author expected, but turn out differently for different "readers".

Robert Cook said...

A good story or novel has meaning and is not merely a series of events following upon one another. The events of a story are told to convey meaning by implication, suggestion, and symbolic representation. A story or novel is guided by the intelligence of a single author, in order to display or express his or her reaction to and interpretation of the experience of being a human being in the world.

Video games are just a series of events following one upon each other, with no larger meaning.

Don Jansen said...

Good fiction is art, and as Tolstoy wrote "Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man's emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity." And, yes, I despise myself for rising to the bait on this one.