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Reading as Team Sport


fic•tion

   /ˈfɪk ʃən/ Show Spelled[fik-shuh n] 

–noun
1. the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. 2. works of this class, as novels or short stories: detective fiction.
3. Something feigned, invented, or imagined; a made-up story: We've all heard the fiction of her being in delicate health.
4. the act of feigning, inventing, or imagining.
5. an imaginary thing or event, postulated for the purposes of argument or explanation.
6. Law. an allegation that a fact exists that is known not to exist, made by authority of law to bring a case within the operation of a rule of law.

 

I was trying to think last night if I knew anyone who didn’t enjoy -- require even -- fiction of some form or another in their life. 

I don’t mean reading, because I know plenty of people who won’t read anything but non-fiction. But even the people I know who eschew novels, or the people I know who just don’t read at all -- period -- still go to the movies, still watch TV, still require fiction in their lives. 

The more I thought about this, the more amazing it seemed to me. 

 

I can’t think of a single culture that doesn’t have some kind of storytelling or bardic heritage. Can you? And in western culture it’s reached a kind of pinnacle; we have huge industries built on the production and distribution of fiction: the movie industry, the television industry, the (troubled) publishing industry. All these multi-million dollar corporations that exist to effectively distribute the drug to the user. 

Why fiction? 

Why do we so desperately need fiction in our lives? 

Entertainment, obviously, but there are lots of entertaining things in the world: sports, sex, socializing. A walk in the woods, a fine meal, a good argument… 

Besides, non-fiction is just as entertaining as fiction. A well-written biography or salacious autobiography?  A well-researched book on a subject you find interesting? Essays by Chesterton or Woolf? That’s entertaining, isn’t it? 

Why fiction? Why fiction when fiction is inherently false?

I know, I know, there are truths in fiction that feel more real than any non-fiction, but…it’s still fiction. It’s still made up. 

Fiction is opinion. 

I don’t care who the writer is or what his or her experiences, I don’t care if the writer professes to be writing what he or she knows or doesn’t know. Fiction is opinion. 

Fiction is not reality. The best written fiction in the world is not reality. And it should not be confused with reality. Only little children and self-important writers confuse the two. 

*** 

Another thing that fascinates me is snobbery as regards to fiction. 

Believe me, before I was eleven, I had heard it all. I grew up in a household where the popular view was “romance reading is for pea brains.” My mother was (at that time) a voracious romance reader. You so know we had some lively mealtime conversations. 

But I don’t just mean the people who read non-fiction versus those of us who read and write “made up stuff,” I mean the snobbery that exists within echelons of fiction. Why do we (speaking generally here -- this is not my own view) hold literary fiction to be more “important” than genre fiction? It’s all made up, it’s all equally false (and true) and it’s all someone else’s opinion.

Why do we tend to think tragedy is more “important” than comedy? 

Why is mystery (according to who you talk to) more highly respected than romance? 

And then you’ve got the snobbery within the ranks of a particular genre. Romance writers who look down on writers of erotica, gay writers who are pained at the notion of m/m writers, hardboiled mystery writers who scorn the lack of realism in the work of cozy mystery writers, bestselling writers who convince themselves they are inherently better and more deserving than their struggling peers. Struggling peers who convince themselves they are inherently better and more deserving than the bestsellers. 

And these aren’t always merely academic discussions, by the way. These are ugly, rolling in the mud, doing my best to put your eye out with my Bic medium point rumbles. 

Over storytelling. Over fiction

Anyway, this isn’t the opening to a debate about who gets to write what and how that needs to be done and whether literary fiction is more important than genre fiction or whether people are reading more or less -- nor am I soliciting ideas on how to save publishing or stop piracy.

As I’ve been thinking about what fiction means, what our need for fiction means -- think about it: we teach our children to read by giving them fiction. I know, I digress, but why don’t we teach children to read by giving them non-fiction? You could make it just as exciting as fiction. Instead of run, Dick, run it could be…without oxygen you will die.

Just a thought. 

As I mull over our societal need for fiction -- actually, it’s more than societal; sometimes it feels genetic -- I’ve come to conclude that reading really is more interactive. It requires more effort from the addict to get the drug into the bloodstream. Even the dumbest book still requires more work from a reader than the dumbest movie, don’t you think? 

Readers invest in storytelling in a way that viewers don’t. And no, this is not me launching into the superiority of readers over viewers. I happen to love film -- passionately. Film is a magnificent storytelling medium, but I still think reading requires a certain effort. A different kind of effort. A film is like a vacuum. You’re sucked in by sound and visual (or you’re repulsed) but basically it’s pretty much all there on the screen in front of you. Even the subtext is visual. But reading…no matter how good the writer, the reader still has to work. The reader must be willing to read between the lines. 

All of which leads me to thinking about angry reader reviews. I mean, it’s kind of funny when you consider how furious we get when a story doesn’t go the way we want it to -- when an author kills a character we love, for example. But even when it’s not that extreme; when it’s just something like…the wrong couple gets together or the character you like turns out to be the killer. Or, sometimes, simply when the story just doesn’t follow the path we think -- want -- it to go. 

I wanted him to hunt for the killer in New York not visit his dying father in Memphis! 

Why do we care so much? I say we because I am just the same. It irritates the hell out of me when a book doesn’t go the direction I want it to. Especially if I was really liking the book.  

If you analyze some of these reviews it becomes clear how often the review is based on the book or film the reviewer anticipated versus the story the writer or filmmaker had in mind. Now how can that be? How can the reader have a preconceived notion of how the story should turn out or what direction it should go? But they do, and I put this down to the interactive quality of fiction -- and reading in particular. As readers we desire certain stories. There are some stories we never get tired of reading about -- this is true for writers too, which is why we continue to explore themes and motifs long after some readers have tired of them. 

We have expectations and desires for the stories we want to read about. We want our characters to be a certain kind of character, we want our stories to go a certain way (the interesting thing is how that varies from reader to reader)…we need our fiction to hit that literary G spot. And when the drug doesn’t work, when it’s diluted or the wrong thing altogether, we’re angry and frustrated as any addict who can’t find Mr. Pusher Man when he really needs him. 

To me, nothing illustrates the power of fiction in our lives like our disappointment over stories that don’t work for us. It’s fascinating to watch. Yes, occasionally bewildering too, when you’re on the receiving end of someone’s ire because the story you wanted to tell clashed with their desire for you to tell a particular story. Mostly fascinating, though. 

Why do we care so much? Why do we need fiction? Fiction = lies and opinions. Wouldn’t the world be a better, saner place if we stuck strictly to the facts? 

Yes? No? Bueller? 

 

 

 

 



 


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kennsea
Apr. 23rd, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
I think it's because it springs from being a social activity. Most of us were read to from an early age, so we associate it with being close to someone. But it also offers an escape from our often mundane realities - especially as we imagine ourselves as the protagonist or transpose ourself somehow into the narrative.
jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I think it's because it springs from being a social activity. Most of us were read to from an early age, so we associate it with being close to someone.

This is certainly true, but we could as easily be read non-fiction when we're young uns.

But it also offers an escape from our often mundane realities - especially as we imagine ourselves as the protagonist or transpose ourself somehow into the narrative.

Yes. True. Reading about Alexander the Great or Clara Barton would serve the same purpose, wouldn't it? And there would be more possibility of those dreams coming true.

And then we have the whole Choose Your Own Adventure stories...
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wedschilde
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
well... since so much of my grandfather's culture was purely oral, storytelling/mele was how to tell history, religion, family... just everything. i think presented in that format, it made the stories (fact or fiction) more connective to the person.

reading allows us to take a "pause", a mental break from the outside world. kind of like... awake dreaming perhaps. i like falling into a story. hell, i like crying at movies or saying... did you see that?

i think we need storytelling because it connects us to the story... and to the other readers/listeners. it's a shared experience... even when done alone. how many times have you heard.... have you read so-and-so, what did you think? or... i have an author that i love... it connects us.

like stepping in dog poo that your neighbour didn't pick up. :::grins::: or hating split pea soup... or loving rare steak.
jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
well... since so much of my grandfather's culture was purely oral, storytelling/mele was how to tell history, religion, family... just everything. i think presented in that format, it made the stories (fact or fiction) more connective to the person.

Yes, this is Sean's premise as well -- the interactive quality of storytelling. But doesn't religion or shared mythology sort of serve the same purpose?

I don't have any answers, by the way. Just thinking aloud. The more I consider this, the more astonishing it seems to me...especially in context of being paid to tell stories.

(Which I am not arguing with!)


reading allows us to take a "pause", a mental break from the outside world. kind of like... awake dreaming perhaps. i like falling into a story. hell, i like crying at movies or saying... did you see that?


The waking dream. Yes, that's how I think of it, too.

i think we need storytelling because it connects us to the story... and to the other readers/listeners. it's a shared experience... even when done alone. how many times have you heard.... have you read so-and-so, what did you think? or... i have an author that i love... it connects us.

There is a variety of story telling that would not be there in shared mythology or religion, too. An independence of thought and desire...that might not conform to what society believes as a whole. Hmmm.

like stepping in dog poo that your neighbour didn't pick up. :::grins::: or hating split pea soup... or loving rare steak.

Or an allergy to pollen. *g*
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jackieville
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
I read to escape, period. I love romance novels! I'm completely addicted and could care less what others think. *g*

jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
I read to escape, period. I love romance novels! I'm completely addicted and could care less what others think. *g*

Absolutely. And I am by no means challenging anyone's preferences or tastes! I'm just...the more I think about it...the more astonishing it becomes to me. But maybe it's like driving a stick shift. You really DON'T want to think too much about it -- or you pop the clutch.
carvedwood
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
In Guy Gavriel Kay's novel, The Lions of Al-Rassan, there's a recurring theme that civilization equals art, and that beauty of some kind is man's reward for hard work. For instance, a farmer toils all day in the field, the entire family is out there, and at night, when the work is over, someone tells a story. Several steps up the success ladder, a king toils over ruling a country, and uses the treasury to finance poets and minstrels, patronizes artists who can fill his kingdom with beauty that exists for its own sake. The more civilized a culture, the more it is populated with things of beauty, that are its own reasons for being.
The theme comes down to this: men strive for beauty. Love, honor, mercy, religion, education, philosophy, art, etc - these are all subsets of beauty. I like this theme. Even non-fiction fits into this view, the beauty of pure fact. I've spoken to rational atheists, and they have the same snobbery of viewpoint. People always strive to work toward their view of beauty.

Art is the artist's expression of life. We tend to be most drawn to the expression that most closely expresses our own views. That's why some people prefer abstract paintings and some prefer sculpture, some prefer Mozart and some prefer 50 Cent. And people who don't see what we see are clearly idiots, because it's so plain to see it that it shouldn't even need explanation. Anything "less" is a waste of human effort.
jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
Art is the artist's expression of life. We tend to be most drawn to the expression that most closely expresses our own views. That's why some people prefer abstract paintings and some prefer sculpture, some prefer Mozart and some prefer 50 Cent. And people who don't see what we see are clearly idiots, because it's so plain to see it that it shouldn't even need explanation. Anything "less" is a waste of human effort.

Yes, some of us are more tolerant in expressing that belief, but I suspect all of us firmly believe in our hearts that we have it right and those other poor folks are -- at best --sadly misguided.

I hear quite a bit about Guy Gavriel Kay. I can't believe I've yet to read him.
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liade
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Personally I much prefer the lies and opinions that constitute fiction to the lies and opinions that pervade the news - news are facts, right???

However, not everybody prefers fiction to facts. I have two nephews: one reads fiction by the cartload (his mother buys books by the crate, literally), his brother much prefers curling up with a good atlas.
jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
news are facts, right???


You and that wacky sense of humor!

However, not everybody prefers fiction to facts. I have two nephews: one reads fiction by the cartload (his mother buys books by the crate, literally), his brother much prefers curling up with a good atlas.

Yes, I know more than a few people who feel fiction is simply a waste of time, but even more who simply prefer to read about "real stuff."
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annabirmingham
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with you on fiction snobbery. I have a huge soft spot for so called trashy novels and chick-lit. I used to feel embarrassed about reading them in public (on the train or wherever) and my husband does take the p** out of me for my love of 'gay cowboys' - even though it's much more than that :)
He's someone who generally only reads for education rather than entertainment, but anyway... I don't care anymore. I read for my enjoyment and no-one else's, so who are they to judge? Sure, i'd look (and feel) very intelligent if I read 'War & Peace' but it would probably bore the pants off me. Life's too short and my spare time is too precious.

As I mull over our societal need for fiction -- actually, it’s more than societal; sometimes it feels genetic

Interesting point. I think make-believe (in any medium) must be inherent in our genes. I see this first hand in my 20 month old daughter. She can't read, barely talks, but still play-acts with her toys. This isn't something I've taught her. Where does it come from? Why does she do this? I've never considered that before.

jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
Interesting point. I think make-believe (in any medium) must be inherent in our genes. I see this first hand in my 20 month old daughter. She can't read, barely talks, but still play-acts with her toys. This isn't something I've taught her. Where does it come from? Why does she do this? I've never considered that before.


Yes, it is interesting, isn't it? From the earliest age.

I remember playing with my own siblings...

"Now you say...and I'll say..."

Writing my own stories even then. *g*
fangirl1981
Apr. 23rd, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
Fiction, especially in the case of books, really is an addiction for me. It's so disappointing when I find a new book/author I want to check out, looking forward to that heady feeling that comes from reading a great book, only to have my hopes dashed against the rocks when I discover they just aren't what I was expecting. The let down comes way more often than the pay off but I keep trying. I keep chasing that elusive great fiction high. Fortunately you consistently deliver a great fix! ;)
jgraeme2007
Apr. 23rd, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
Fortunately you consistently deliver a great fix! ;)

That's right, and I have I got a shipment coming in of some preeeeemo stuff at a really great price! Youjust wait and see. *g*
thelastaerie
Apr. 23rd, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
you know sometimes people say "stranger than fiction", but I think not. I think reality is rarely stranger than fiction. Fiction is... interesting and boundless and sometimes, hopeful.

I read to escape, from a very young age, as Oscar Wilde said "My own business always bores me to death. I prefer other people's." and then I found out fiction is even better than gossip! *g*

Film is a magnificent storytelling medium, but I still think reading requires a certain effort.

Totally agree. And that's why I am more easier annoyed by a bad movie than a novel, because reading allows me more room to "imagine" and interpret... film is more rigid, in that sense. When watching a film, I am basically just accepting the Director's version of the story and the reaction can only be: I agree and like his version or I don't. This goes to explain why readers care so much about the stories they like, because readers feel like they are involved, we can hear the protags inner throughts - we believe we KNOW them and therefore, we KNOW what's best for them. And if they don't do what we think they should do... and someone has to pay (usually the writer, heh)!
jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
you know sometimes people say "stranger than fiction", but I think not. I think reality is rarely stranger than fiction. Fiction is... interesting and boundless and sometimes, hopeful.

And it is when it is hopeful that it feels most real. Fictional tragedy often feels contrived in a way that fictional hope doesn't. Perhaps because fictional tragedy seems determined from the outset...and I don't believe that most outcomes are set in stone. I believe all the choices we make along the way count -- not just a few symbolic ones.

Or that could be me. I am a staunch believer in the power of positive thinking.



And that's why I am more easier annoyed by a bad movie than a novel, because reading allows me more room to "imagine" and interpret... film is more rigid, in that sense. When watching a film, I am basically just accepting the Director's version of the story and the reaction can only be: I agree and like his version or I don't. This goes to explain why readers care so much about the stories they like, because readers feel like they are involved, we can hear the protags inner throughts - we believe we KNOW them and therefore, we KNOW what's best for them. And if they don't do what we think they should do... and someone has to pay (usually the writer, heh)!

This is true! *g* This is why writers are sometimes left scratching their heads when readers say things like, "But X just WOULDN'T do that!"

He...wouldn't? *g*
chris_quinton
Apr. 23rd, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's a deep-rooted creative instinct that most people have to some degree. The reader is in partnership with the writer, and sub-consciously is writing/anticipating the story in their own head as they read the words - hence the disappointment if it doesn't pan out the way they expect/hope *g*.

The same leap of imagination that makes the writer write, makes the reader read.

jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's a deep-rooted creative instinct that most people have to some degree. The reader is in partnership with the writer, and sub-consciously is writing/anticipating the story in their own head as they read the words - hence the disappointment if it doesn't pan out the way they expect/hope *g*.

Yes -- the reader is not passive in the way the viewer of a movie or a sitcom is. The reader has to invest in a story to make it come alive, they have to be willing to supply the missing details. They have to invest. And if that investment doesn't pay off, the reader takes it more personally.

This is not to say that viewers of TV and movies do not invest and do not take things personally -- or we wouldn't have fandom and fan fiction.

But it's still a different thing, I think.

The same leap of imagination that makes the writer write, makes the reader read.

Yes! We would a blurb or see a book cover and think, I want to try that world, I want to follow that character...


chaotic_binky
Apr. 23rd, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
I have always wondered why tragedy is more important or more worthy than comedy. Give me laughter any day.

In past times when life was brutal, short and hard, fiction was probably more necessary than now because it really did allow a suspension of reality. As well, daydreaming is a form of fiction, and we all indulge in it, so it seems to be a necessary component of our psyches, one that we are meant to use, which is why we still need fiction :D

Wouldn't life be awful without it?

jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
I have always wondered why tragedy is more important or more worthy than comedy. Give me laughter any day.

Especially when it's so much harder to make a reader laugh than it is to make them cry.

In past times when life was brutal, short and hard, fiction was probably more necessary than now because it really did allow a suspension of reality. As well, daydreaming is a form of fiction, and we all indulge in it, so it seems to be a necessary component of our psyches, one that we are meant to use, which is why we still need fiction :D

Yes, and there's also the fact that we all -- all cultures, all civilizations -- tend to revere storytellers. It's almost a low level magic.

Wouldn't life be awful without it?

It would be...flat, I think.
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heliophile_oxon
Apr. 23rd, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
stranger than fiction
I'm not knowledgeable about this subject in the least, but I thought the human need for storytelling/playacting was generally reckoned to be to do with practice - as infants, I mean, when humans practice social interactions and social skills and emotional responses in a safe (because fictional) context - and with learning what-constitutes-acceptable-behaviour-in-my-family-or-clan-or-prehistoric-hunter-gatherer-group (or whatever). And that it evolved as a way for us to make sense of the universe by organising it into bite-sized patterns we could cope with, and by "humanising" the chaos around us. And then of course practicing or sort of "ghosting" enjoyable emotional responses feels so good - no wonder it can feel almost addictive!

Reading exciting, well-written non-fiction can feel that good too, but ... I think it often requires more work on the part of the reader. I can only speak for myself, but I know that although I enjoy both I read a lot more fiction than non. Hmm.

Very interesting discussion you've got going there!
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liriel1810
Apr. 23rd, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
Fiction to me is escapism. The real world can be boring, mundane, aggravating, tragic, silly, and scary - but it's not fiction. When you immerse yourself in fiction, you're escaping from whatever aspect of the real world is currently affecting you, pressuring you so that you just need to step away for a bit.

It's like a vacation for your mind, to a certain extent. You can read, or watch a movie, or enjoy whatever your preferred type of fiction is, and then you come back, if not refreshed, then at least with a bit more energy for having had that break.

Riddle me this one, batman.

Why is it that I can barely sit still for two hours to watch a movie (except LOTR but that's in a class of its own), and yet, I can sit all day and read a book? I think that it's because with a book, you're able to create your own vision for the world.

In a movie, the hero looks thus and so, because the casting person and director chose this particular actor to portray the part. But in a book, the author tells you, 'He was of average height and had a slim build. Dark, curly hair framed his face, drawing attention to the intensity of his pale green eyes.' and from that you can imagine – a particular actor, or the guy who lives down the street who you've always thought was a cutie, or you create your own original person. But one thing is for certain, unless the author says 'his name was Ray Doyle', you will not be seeing the same person the author saw when writing the story. And that makes reading a much more personal experience than watching a movie.

Yes, the author has created the world that you're immersing yourself in – to a point. They give you enough detail to be able to form your own vision of the world they've created. So it becomes interactive in a way that non-fiction never really can be and movies will never be, because the director has made all those choices, bringing his(or her) vision to life.

Wouldn't the world be a better, saner place if we stuck strictly to the facts?

Nope. Humans need that escape valve to worlds where anything is possible in order to be able to cope with the crap that happens in every day life without killing someone. *g* Writers have it the best, if you ask me. If you're so angry about something you want to kill someone, you just kill them off in your latest effort. *g* No jail term, and you get the satisfaction of 'seeing' the person who annoyed you die.

And look, I wrote all that before my first sip of coffee! If it makes little sense, I'm totally blaming the lack of caffeine. *g*
jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
Riddle me this one, batman.

Why is it that I can barely sit still for two hours to watch a movie (except LOTR but that's in a class of its own), and yet, I can sit all day and read a book? I think that it's because with a book, you're able to create your own vision for the world.


This is where the interactive quality of fiction comes in. The reader must fill in the blanks, read between the lines. How successful that melding is will depend on both the abilities of the writer and the reader. Every writer is not a master, but then every reader is not a genius.

In a movie, the hero looks thus and so, because the casting person and director chose this particular actor to portray the part. But in a book, the author tells you, 'He was of average height and had a slim build. Dark, curly hair framed his face, drawing attention to the intensity of his pale green eyes.' and from that you can imagine – a particular actor, or the guy who lives down the street who you've always thought was a cutie, or you create your own original person. But one thing is for certain, unless the author says 'his name was Ray Doyle', you will not be seeing the same person the author saw when writing the story. And that makes reading a much more personal experience than watching a movie.

And, judging by some fan fiction, even if the writer says "Ray Doyle" we may not all be picturing the same small, slight fragile flower some of us are. And this is when working from the same real life model. It IS pretty impressive to see the creative mind at work.

Nope. Humans need that escape valve to worlds where anything is possible in order to be able to cope with the crap that happens in every day life without killing someone. *g* Writers have it the best, if you ask me. If you're so angry about something you want to kill someone, you just kill them off in your latest effort. *g* No jail term, and you get the satisfaction of 'seeing' the person who annoyed you die.

Ah, there's another good one. Fiction as cathartic release. The safety valve that the imagination provides.

And look, I wrote all that before my first sip of coffee! If it makes little sense, I'm totally blaming the lack of caffeine. *g*

That's not a bad trick!
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ocotillo_dawn
Apr. 24th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
I didn't get through all comments, so someone may have mentioned this, but I personally think that one of the attractions of fiction/storytelling is that it makes sense. Real life so rarely does. Characters actions, whether good or bad, follow sensibly from motivations. How often can you say that about your mother-in-law/boss/lover?

I think storytelling in all its forms helps us to put order and sense in a world that is really quite random and confusing. There is a comfort in that. And in many ways, I think that simplifying the world (examining bits of it in well constrained 'thought experiments') helps us to understand the chaos of the real thing better. For those of us interested in understanding people, especially, I wonder if a well-written piece of fiction is as educational as any psych/soc text.

jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
I think storytelling in all its forms helps us to put order and sense in a world that is really quite random and confusing. There is a comfort in that.

Oh yes! This is one of the primary reason for reading and writing crime fiction -- the world is a violent place and there is little real justice in it. In fact, often there seems to be little reason in it. Crime fiction makes sense of the senseless -- even when the ultimate message is that there is no justice or reason!

And in many ways, I think that simplifying the world (examining bits of it in well constrained 'thought experiments') helps us to understand the chaos of the real thing better. For those of us interested in understanding people, especially, I wonder if a well-written piece of fiction is as educational as any psych/soc text.

I think this is also why people become annoyed when characters in books do not behave in "realistic" or recognizable ways. We all bring our own experience and history to everything we read, so the author who lives in his mother's basement and doesn't get out much, is somewhat handicapped. Not that he can't tell a great story, but chances are when it comes to interpersonal relationships, characters begin to act in unlikely ways.
ali_wilde
Apr. 24th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
Escapism. Real life is never as glamorous, exciting, sexy, adventurous as fiction and it's not often you'll meet someone like Captain Jack (Sparrow or Harkness) in real life. Nor anyone as rich, bitchy, lovely, beautiful, hot, compassionate, brilliant or intrepid as the characters in the stories. Yes, I love romances - historical and contemporary.
jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
Escapism. Real life is never as glamorous, exciting, sexy, adventurous as fiction and it's not often you'll meet someone like Captain Jack (Sparrow or Harkness) in real life. Nor anyone as rich, bitchy, lovely, beautiful, hot, compassionate, brilliant or intrepid as the characters in the stories. Yes, I love romances - historical and contemporary.


Given that so few of us actually end up living the lives we dream of when we're young -- that society probably could not function if we did -- I think escapism is a very valid argument in favor of fiction.
sannea
Apr. 24th, 2010 08:03 am (UTC)
Have you ever read Maurice by E.M. Forster (Another of my favorite authors ;-) and the comments the author made in regards to the book prior to his death and the subsequent publishing?
His friends and peers gave him a lot of criticism over the ending which should realistically have ended with "a lad hanging from a noose". It has a hopeful and arguably very happy ending between two men even though it is set in 1913's England. E.M. Forsters comment to explain this literary "mistake" was simply something along the lines of: "I wouldn't have bothered writing the book otherwise"

The human stubbornness and hope that lies in that statement has inspired me ever since I was a teenager. It is also an example of the difference between fiction and non-fiction. I agree with the view already stated here that fiction is a way of social interaction.


jgraeme2007
Apr. 24th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
Have you ever read Maurice by E.M. Forster (Another of my favorite authors ;-) and the comments the author made in regards to the book prior to his death and the subsequent publishing?

Yes, indeed.

His friends and peers gave him a lot of criticism over the ending which should realistically have ended with "a lad hanging from a noose". It has a hopeful and arguably very happy ending between two men even though it is set in 1913's England. E.M. Forsters comment to explain this literary "mistake" was simply something along the lines of: "I wouldn't have bothered writing the book otherwise"

Yes, fiction as a way of reinvisioning the world is certainly valid.

An interesting aside here is that Forster did not permit Maurice to be published until after his death -- this does not negate the power of the book, just an observation. Perhaps it's more important because he wrote it with the understanding that it might never be published. He wrote it as much for himself as anyone else.

The human stubbornness and hope that lies in that statement has inspired me ever since I was a teenager. It is also an example of the difference between fiction and non-fiction. I agree with the view already stated here that fiction is a way of social interaction.

Yes, both in the writing and reading of it. Or more exactly, we write for ourselves, but we publish for others.
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