As David Mamet told me, “If Hamlet comes home from school, and his dad’s not dead, and asks him how school was, it’s boring.”
As a psychiatrist and novelist, I’m aware that all good stories are disturbing. No matter how beautifully written or “literary,” a novel resonates deeply because the storyline tugs powerfully at us. It upsets, confounds and presents chaos, conflict, imbalance and upheaval — either within its character’s mind or circumstances.
As readers, we crave instability, disturbance, and uncertainty. They make us care about the characters and the outcome. We live vicariously through the anguish, turmoil and trouble the characters endure in a quest to reorder chaos — the disequilibrium — propelling the story.