What I am suggesting is that the two treatments of dialogue in the contemporary novel—the scrupulous mimicry of everyday speech and the studied exclusion of differing points of view—are connected at the level of basic assumptions about the nature of fiction in today’s literary culture. Reading Luke Ford’s interview with Robb Forman Dew, I was struck by the following exchange:
Luke: “Do you have any friends who are conservative Republicans?”In the interview, conducted four years ago, Dew supplies the premise to her brand new novel Being Polite to Hitler. When she was a child, she explains, two things broke her family apart—“religion and Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Her uncle Brent, an “airplane navigator in the Pacific,” supported Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on Japan. “My father thought there was no excuse for dropping a bomb like that on a civilian population,” she recollects. “That the government should’ve dropped it on an unpopulated island and said, ‘This is what will happen.’ ” Brent dismissed the idea as “romantic.”
Robb, quickly: “No. I don’t think I could. Are you?”
Robb: “You are? You really are? Oh no. You can’t be.”
In Being Polite to Hitler, the horror of the atomic bomb is the psychological landscape of the novel.
Robb Forman Dew comments:
Just to be clear about my comment to Luke Ford, he had telephoned me out of the blue some years ago to discuss homosexuality, because I was a member of PFLAG at the time, and he said he was wrestling with his sexuality. I had no idea I was being interviewed, although I agreed to do an interview with him at some time.
But let me assure you that I can well imagine a person who believes the decision to use atomic weapons to end the War in the Pacific was the only choice to be made–I haven’t decided what I think about it myself.