November 9, 2012

In his hazily reasoned review, “Kingsolver’s eco-novel charts unique territory” [Style, Oct. 31], Post fiction editor Ron Charles dismissed T.C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood and myself as politicized writers “preaching to the overheated choir” in novels that take on climate change and other environmental issues; he joked lamely about “pushing the last polar bear off its melting ice floe” to avoid such books. Do I doubt Charles would argue that novels have no business with sociopolitical matters? Is Hurricane Sandy merely “political” for the thousands who’ve lost their homes or businesses, for the families of the dead?

The “purview of environmental fiction,” as Charles termed it, is hardly “to reform recalcitrant consumers or make good liberals feel even more pious about carpooling.” Climate change and extinction are issues of great torment and responsibility, both individual and collective. They are matters of life and death and meaning; therefore they are matters of art. The transformation of our world and lives by fossil-fuel culture involves the personal suffering of many actual humans (and other animals), not just “pious” liberals and carpoolers. “Environmental” and literary fiction’s purview is human experience, suffering, promise and imagination.

Lydia Millet, Tucson