Writing names the world, and the power of description should not be underestimated. Literature remembers its religious origins in some of those first stories. Stories of sky gods and sea gods not only became the source of an ocean of stories that flowed from them but also served as the foundations of the world into which they, the myths, were born. There would have been little blood sacrifice in Latin America or ancient Greece if it had not been for the gods. Iphigenia would have lived and Clytemnestra would have had no need to murder Agamemnon and the entire story of the House of Atreus would have been different. This would have been bad for the history of the theater, no doubt, but good in many ways for the family concerned. Writing invented the gods and was a game the gods themselves played, and the consequences of that writing, holy writ, are still working themselves out today, which just shows that the demonstrable fictionality of fiction does nothing to lessen its power, especially if you call it the truth. But writing broke away from the gods and in that rupture much of its power was lost. Prophecy is no longer the game, except for futurologists, but then futurology is fiction too. It can be defined as the art of being wrong about the future. For the rest of us, the proper study of mankind is man. We have no priests, we can appeal to no ultimate arbiter, though there are critics among us who would claim such a role for themselves.In spite of this, fiction does retain the occasional surprising ability to initiate social change. Here is the fugitive slave Eliza, running from Simon Legree. Here is Oliver Twist asking for more. Here is a boy wizard with a lightning scar on his forehead bringing books back into the lives of a generation that was forgetting how to read. Uncle Tom’s Cabin changed attitudes towards slavery, and Charles Dickens’s portraits of child poverty inspired legal reforms, and J. K. Rowling changed the culture of childhood, making millions of boys and girls look forward to 800-page novels, and probably popularizing vibrating toy broomsticks at boarding schools. On the opening night of Death of a Salesman, the head of Gimbels department store rushed from the theater vowing never to fire his own aging Willy Loman.