I couldn't agree more. Tell a great story with substance and the reader will draw from it what is there. Editorialize, try to make a point by telling a story, and your point will be understood, but your story is not likely to be very good. An example of this is the awful ending of Sinclair's The Jungle, which reads like a pamphlet and forgets it's a novel.One exception is satire, which often obviously editorializes and uses exaggeration to make a point. "Harrison Bergeron," by Vonnegut, or "The Murderer," by Bradbury, as examples, are not exactly subtle, and neither is much of South Park or The Simpsons. Whether or not they qualify as great art, editorializing is not itself a cause of failure in a satire. Being not funny, sharp, relevant more often is.
Basically, this is what writing teachers mean when they say "Show, don't tell."I'm thinking of this topic a lot lately in terms of the playwright David Hare -- a fellow whose work alternately thrills and irritates me. His best plays (in my opinion) are the ones where the political ideology is hidden in a story about intimate relationships between people (e.g., "Skylight"). On the other hand, when he writes plays whose main characters are George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, et al ("Stuff Happens"), and the ideology is nakedly on view, I go "Blech." And I avoid going to the theatre because I hate it when people talk about politics at my dinner parties -- Lord knows I don't want to hear them blabbing about it on a stage. I am reminded of my childhood in the Christ-haunted South, with proselytizers everywhere one looked. Please, please, please don't tell me what to think or whom to believe (in). Show me a scene, tell me a story, but let ME come to my conclusions.Happily, Hare's forthcoming play, "The Vertical Hour" (opening Nov. 30 in NYC), promises to be one that I will love. The politics will doubtless be there, but they'll be sublimated in the tale of a surprising relationship between a youngish American and an older Englishman -- played by two great actors: Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy.