What am I doing? Moral agency and the writer

Sometimes I look up from the imaginary world I’m writing and take note of what’s around me. Sometimes I ask, What am I doing? Is this worthwhile? Can stories have value? Is this how I want to spend 2018?

A dear friend recently sent me this link from Literary Hub on the moral agency of the fiction writer. I include it here because it makes total sense. The quote is from Susan Sontag’s At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning, and addresses the morality of the writer:

“Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent. . . This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate—and, therefore, improve—our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgement.”

See the page with many more snippets of Sontag’s wisdom at


I have been re-reading this passage as I write. It seems to me to be very apt for the stories that come out of Odyssey Books, where nothing exploitative or repulsive gets a look in. Odyssey – where books are an adventure – and very often, a moral one at that!


Thanks to the British Library free Flickr stream for the image taken from:  “Italien … mit 12 Städteplanen und 40 Ansichten in Stahlstich”, by Georg von MARTENS, p. 1775, Stuttgart, 1846.

I'd love to hear your ideas on this!

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