The very premise is an unappealing one: we’d like to believe that such unhinged myopia would have psychological roots in trauma or in some sinister personal history, but usually it doesn’t.... [A] voluntarily isolated person choosing not to eat until she’s addicted to not eating doesn’t make for a very good story....But readers choose books because they are interesting, and so whatever is written about well enough to attract readers is going to make the subject absorbing, exciting, glamorous. What things other than anorexia are actually quite boring but written about in books as if they were not boring? When else do we worry that readers will be tricked into doing things they should not do because the book failed to depict the activity as boring?
If we really wanted to protect our supposedly susceptible youth, we’d paint anorexics as they are: slowly suicidal obsessives who avoid other people and expend ninety-five per cent of their mental energy counting the calories in green vegetables. We wouldn’t see them as worth reading about at all.
And yet... isn't Gregory is falling prey to the imitative fallacy?
Imitative fallacy is this: the mistaken notion that creating the feeling in the reader that is the same as the feeling in the character is the worthy intention of a story. That is my loose paraphrase of what is probably a lot of technical ancient Greek. Which means, we create an imitation of life, not a story. So, for example–if the character is bored, you bore the reader. Or the character is confused, you confuse the reader.The example of writing boringly to express boredom is such a typical way to explain the imitative fallacy that Christopher Lehmann-Haupt found this amusing and not boring way to talk about the imitative fallacy:
[T]he fallacy of imitative form... is the error of, say, writing chaotic prose in order to convey a mood of chaos: we were forever vigilant against this fallacy, although we often committed a variation of it, by writing boringly about interesting subjects!What are some interesting books about boredom? I think of Kierkegaard’s "Either/Or," written about and quoted here by Roger Kimball:
He was... an unusually exuberant writer, by turns gripping, caustic, and sentimental. He could be extremely funny: “All men are bores,” he wrote in “The Rotation Method” (a key essay in Either/Or).If everyone is boring, then all the characters in all of the books are boring, anorexics and overeaters alike. The authors may strain to depict them as interesting, but there are exceptions, where the author clearly shows you that the characters are boring, but the book is not boring. I'm sure you can name a few. I thought of "Madame Bovary." And so, I think I've established that Gregory was wrong to call anorexia "the impossible subject." I hope you won't be so boring as to contradict me. Eat a sandwich!
Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this... . The gods were bored, and so they created man. Adam was bored because he was alone, and so Eve was created. Thus boredom entered the world, and increased in proportion to the increase of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille; then the population of the world increased, and the peoples were bored en masse. To divert themselves they conceived the idea of constructing a tower high enough to reach the heavens. This idea is itself as boring as the tower was high, and constitutes a terrible proof of how boredom gained the upper hand.