“Broken Vows,” James Wood, The New Yorker, 3/11/2013
This article, which is a review of Jamie Quatro’s fiction that often has the theme of adultery, has an especially interesting passage that is easier to present in full than attempting to paraphrase.
The New Testament is . . . divided between judgment and forgiveness. The Jesus who challenges [only] the sinless to throw the first stone at the woman caught in adultery was apparently also the chief scourge of the thought police, announcing that any man who looks upon a woman with lust in his heart has committed adultery. From a literary point of view, Jesus’ absent-mindedness on this issue (assuming that it was his and not the Gospel writers’) is striking. To ask us to look into our hearts and defer judgment of a person, out of compassionate fellow-feeling, is a thoroughly novelistic gesture: we do it every day as readers of fiction. But to claim that thinking something is identical with doing it is thoroughly anti-novelistic, is indeed the enemy of fiction’s freedom: how could we read fiction if we actually believed this?