Some [Brief] Thoughts on Existential Fiction

Over the past few years I've read a hefty amount of Dostoevsky. The only reason I can remember for attempting such a feat is considering how I felt when I bought my first work of his. After receiving a gift card to Half Price Books from my friend Josh, I spent an evening perusing the store's shelves for something to tackle. I made my way over to their "rare" collection - you know, the books, comics, and c.d. box sets that they keep locked in that old-grandmother's-fine-china cabinet - which is when I saw my soon-to-be purchase: a 1940's unabridged and illustrated Brothers Karamazov. Immediately, I knew that was the one, so I promptly bought it, and began devouring it that very night.

Sure, I noticed it was odd, if not just different than other books I've read (e.g. Stephen King, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.). But I didn't care. Call it the nostalgia of having an old beat up book in your hands, or the feeling of accomplishment that I wanted to feel once I finished reading this beast... either way, I was invested. The word choice, the heart, the mood, the flow, all of it quickly added to the reasons why I began to call Dostoevsky my favorite author. After reading most of his other works, I moved to Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Cormac McCarthy. The verdict? I love Russian (and Texan) authors... ok, that's not it. What I really began to realize is that I had an affinity toward fiction that was rooted in Existentialism

If you're unclear what Existentialism is, then you're normal. In both philosophy and literary theory, to say that it's an ambiguous word would be an understatement. In short, what Existentialism proposes is that the thinker/reader look at who they are as a whole... not just as a "thinker", or a writer, or a teacher, or a basketball player, or a husband or wife, or whatever else we're prone to compartmentalizing ourselves into. It asks us to consider the human as a whole - a thinking, feeling, emotional, limited, imaginative, passionate, living person. That is the starting point, the subject, the thesis of Existentialism. And that is what I fell in love with about these works. Ultimately, I feel like they really encourage and challenge the reader to consider his or her life more wholly.

Plot is there, but it's merely the canvas that holds in the vibrancy of the characters. Many people hate this style of narrative - understandably - but I continue to adore it. So, instead of writing a long reason as to why it's pertinent for our culture, or generation, or whatever other soapboxey thing I can conceive of to campaign, I simply want to pose these questions to you: 

Does 'Character Development' necessarily always have to be subjected to being handmaiden of 'Plot'? Can you enjoy a story with just character development?

If you're interested, I will occasionally be posting short stories on this blog - like the one here - that might not be the most plot driven. But that doesn't always mean they're devoid of purpose. So, if that's not your cup of tea, please feel free to ignore them. However, if you're tired of your same tea flavor, and want to try a different blend, but you've yet to acquire the taste, just ask yourself before sipping, "Regardless of it being my style or not, could this story offer me anything?" Either way, whatever you decide on reading in life, like always, happy readings!