If it’s common now for men and women to be friends, why do we so rarely see it in popular culture? Partly, it’s a narrative problem. Friendship isn’t courtship. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end. Stories about friendships of any kind are relatively rare, especially given what a huge place the relationships have in our lives.
It is close to impossible, for example, to recognize that a painting depicts two (or more) friends without a title to that effect or some similar literary artifice or allusion. The reason is that friends can be doing anything together and no single event is ever enough to indicate the presence of friendship.
He goes on to make useful analogies with the arts in general. You come to know a friend like you recognize a painter’s style: you can’t predict them necessarily, but you can see how things fit the pattern, once the friendship has “time to develop in the first place and time to flourish.” There’s also the idea that friends, and art, are things we use to become our individual, differentiated ourselves. Like Deresiewicz said elsewhere,
Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person.
Via Matt Thomas’ weekly NYT Digest, for which I am always grateful.