Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Why is fiction so enjoyable? I think I could sit around and read novels most of the time and be happy (as long as they were good ones). I might need some time hanging out with real people, and I might read outside sometimes after a nice hike, and I might need to process what I was reading with people either verbally or in writing, but other than that I think I could just read novels all the time. Maybe I just feel that way right now because I'm tired of reading heavier stuff, and the bit of time I give myself every few days to read fiction is much anticipated.

But fiction in itself is really enticing. Whether books or movies, it seems like most people are interested in stories. Even in cultures who don't/didn't have access to books and movies, story has always been a huge part of culture. What is it about fiction that draws us in so much?

Part of it is learning about another person's perspective and experiences. In other cultures before this proliferation of fiction I suppose they used narrative to define their group's identity. What do we use fiction for now? A lot of people talk about it as an "escape." What are we escaping from? I don't think of it as an escape. For me, reading fiction shows me something about what it means to be human that I can't learn from my own life. It shows me life in a form that I can't see without a story, but I can see once it's written in such a way that I can grasp it. This isn't really knowledge that is empirical or objective--I can't really explain (usually) that I learned X, Y & Z from such and such a novel. I can say things I learned, but the things I can speak are not the only things I learned. There is something deeper going on, something about fiction that feeds my soul and nourishes it, something that shows me how to live rather than being an "escape" from life.

This isn't always the case, of course--sometimes I get sucked into a junk novel or watch a pointless movie for the escape of it, but even those, if I allow them, can "speak to my condition," can show me something about who I am and what I value, that I may not have thought of otherwise.

But in my rather utilitarian mindset, it often seems silly to me to read fiction. It didn't ever happen! It will never happen! Why am I wasting my time sitting around reading when I could be doing something that would help someone? But I think art does help people. I think it's essential for us to experience creativity, even if that creativity is "only" to allow our minds to be drawn in to someone else's work of art. Our minds are amazing things and can be nourished and grow even--and perhaps especially--from coming in contact with someone who is not ourselves through art we would never have imagined.

So here's my encouragement, I guess: go enjoy some good art, and allow yourself to think of it as time well spent.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...