Jejudo, South Korea
Well, you guys have defined 'entertainment' to the point where it doesn't mean anything except that it is readable. Great, if something isn't readable, it isn't going to get read. I think this is a mistake in that entertainment is too often equated with accessibility. I offered my father once a copy of "Slaughterhouse 5", he turned it down saying it was too difficult. Vonnegut may be many things but he's not difficult, he may write about 'serious' things, but it is not a difficult pill to swallow.
It's a clever slide if you think about it. While I have no interest in trying to demean fiction or narrative, I do think the genre, any genre, is better for some things rather than others. Would "A Modest Proposal" be better if it had been a narrative? I doubt it. Is it entertaining? I read it, didn't I?
Oscar Wilde's "Man under Socialism", the travel writings of Salmon Rushdie, or even "The Diary of Anne Frank"?
Plato's dialogues created a genre (even if it wasn't the first dialogue), the genre of philosophy and I think that even today the best philosophy written is written in that spirit. It wouldn't work as well if it were a novel. For a good counter-example, take a look at John Galt's speech in "Atlas Shrugged". You may have liked the novel, but I haven't met anyone who 'likes' that speech.
Which was more entertaining King's "I have a Dream" speech or Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"? Where indeed does one place Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" in all this?
The "Gettysburg Address" or "I have a Dream" may not be entertainment but they are captivating, enthralling, mesmerising. But there's probably more meat, less appetizing meat certainly, in "Invisible Man" than in both speeches put together.
But the point in question is entertainment and the schism between entertainment and serious writing is quite pronounced today. Why is that? To some extent, I agree that it is time, but not the time that Ron and Hush speak of, I mean the time it takes to understand a piece. If it takes more time, if more time is spent thinking, "What is he/she trying to say?" than it is, by definition, less entertaining. It is art and we all know what that means.
The importance of difficulty (here defined, not as ambiguity or opaqueness, but as the consumption of time) as entertainment should not be overlooked in the rush to embrace entertainment as accessibility. I won't expand on this idea here, save it for another time, but a narrative is not always better if it is easier to swallow/follow (Try out Thomas Pynchon), and neither is any other form of writing or speaking that is initially entertaining.
"1984" is a better novel than "Animal Farm" and "Brave New World". Though I suppose it's difficult to look at ourselves in the mirror, far easier to place it in the far future or as an allegory than as an extrapolation. After all, nobody really believes that a good book tells you what you want to hear or that one needn't be an animal or a genetically manipulated slave to realize that you, you and I, are being manipulated by words to the point of incredulity.
Orwell's thesis on language, ever present in that book, is something we can talk about or even countered as in Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" and as a result I find that that book is far more prescient, far more thought provoking, than either of the other two.
That is, "1984" resonates whereas I don't see the other two doing that.
And all three contain elements of futility.