When I watch a film whose plot capitalizes on the vulnerability of women to torturers, maimers, rapists, and maniacs, I take it personally. I feel preyed upon. I don’t enjoy sitting through another woman’s misery even if I keep telling myself that her big problems there are really all just ketchup. It still hurts to watch. For me, a recreation [read ‘re-creation’] of simple violence has no recreational value. So why would I ever create an act of violence in a novel? My answer has to do with the fact that I don’t consider a novel to be a purely recreational vehicle. ...Art is entertainment but it’s also celebration, condolence, exploration, duty, and communion. The artistic consummation of a novel is created by the author and reader together, in an act of joint imagination, and that’s not to be taken lightly.
I find I’m prepared to commit an act of violence in the written word if, and only if, it meets two criteria: first, the act must be embedded in the story of its consequences. Second, the fictional violence must be connected with the authentic world.
I will not argue for censorship except from the grassroots up: my argument is for making choices about what we consume. The artist is blessed and cursed with a kind of power, but so are the reader and viewer. The story no longer belongs to the author once it’s come to live in your head. By then, it’s part of your life. So be careful what you let in the door, is my advice. It should not make you feel numb, or bored, or demented, or less than human. But I think it’s all right if it makes you cry some, or feel understood, or long to eat sand for want of more, or even change your life a little. It’s a story. That’s what happens.