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Scott Lax Blog

Violence Against Women: A Major Theme in VENGEANCE FOLLOWS

When I wrote THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED, it was because of the War in Vietnam, which had ended nearly twenty years earlier. I wrote of how it affected so many millions of people, both in America and abroad; and how it affected me on an emotional level by framing a small, home-front story against the background of war. I fictionalized a story, and so it contained what the novelist Tim O'Brien calls "story truth," as opposed to "happening truth."

For my new novel, another insidious societal factor inhabited my thoughts, bothered me for years, and finally found its way into the pages of VENGEANCE FOLLOWS. That happening truth, a theme of my novel, is the epidemic of violence against women.

One in three women in the world will experience beating or rape in her lifetime. In the USA, one in four, or five, depending on whose statistics you use. In any case, it's an epidemic, and it's a horror.

That terrible, pervasive happening truth became a major theme of my novel and turned story truth. The story truth contained its own energy, and, as many authors from O'Brien to Hemingway and countless others knew or know, story truth can be truer than happening truth, because an author can go deeper: into motivation, and feeling, and pain; and redemption.

Even the PBS drama, "Downton Abbey," is showcasing this age-old scourge on humanity. I doubt if the creator of DA, Julian Fellowes, began writing the show with the intention of showing the damage of rape; my guess is that his research and experience led him to realize that the probability of one of his beloved characters being abused in this way was likely. He then likely created the story truth.

As many authors and other artists, I can delve deeper into story truth than happening truth, because of the artist's and author's prerogative: the ability to protect the innocent; the necessity to not expose others in a discernible way by creating composite characters or completely fictionalized ones. In order to keep the demons of the past at bay, and allow life to move forward, I created a story truth.

I know that my novel isn't an easy one to read for some. I know it doesn't seem plausible to some, as well. Yet I feel, have always felt, as a writer, as far back as sixteen years old, that my job is to shine a light in dark corners. To reveal. To illuminate. To try to gain meaning. To try to find love where there is hate, healing where there are wounds.

The epidemic of abuse toward women is real. For all of my characters' love, and friendship; for all their sensual joy of wine, and sex, and feeling the wind and sun on their faces, they nonetheless live in a word where the unspeakable is part of their lives.

Some writers raison d'être – our reason to be – is to shine a light into dark spaces. That's the most important thing some of us may expect to achieve. And the reader does the rest. Read More 
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