Novel Resonance

Chitra Divakaruni writing about how reading 300 novels as a National Book Awards fiction judge provided new insights into the novel form:

It is this resonance, finally, that separates the successful novel from the others. The cast of major characters may be small or large, clowns or kings. The backdrop may be modest (a room) or ambitious (a continent). The vocabulary may be simple or flamboyant, literary or colloquial. The melody may be created by a single flute, or performed by an entire orchestra. But through it all, there's a sense that what we're seeing is not all that this is about.

The novel continuously opens into something larger than the specifics that form the boundaries of the story, though paradoxically these specifics must be concrete and convincing if we are to intimate a larger truth through them. Reading it becomes a three-dimensional experience, beginning in the book and ending in ourselves. Such a novel, while it is a mirror of, and a commentary on, a particular event, people, country or time, is on some level about each one of us, our central truth. Each successful novel gives a special flavor and shape — and tone — to this truth, but does not limit it to these. In this it is similar to the bell, which shapes sound without enclosing it.