Friday, March 30, 2012

Words, Words, Words about Fiction

These two pins from Pinterest made their way onto my boards in the past few weeks.

I have always been drawn to stories that present the universality of human nature in different cultural settings. As a teenager who felt lonely and out of place, reading stories helped me connect, to know that I wasn't the only person who felt so odd. The characters were real to me, and I felt a genuine connection to them.

I connected to characters in medieval and renaissance literature, historical novels, science fiction, poetry, and fantasy. In my forties, I've rediscovered young adult literature and have voraciously read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Egyptian series, not to mention J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, all of which take readers to wonderfully odd places.

Who wouldn't like owl post? Seriously.

But despite the strangeness of the settings, what appeals in all these stories is the human story. Harry, for instance, isn't particularly special in the magical world. In fact, he's rather ordinary except on the Quidditch field. He has some talents, of course, but his real strength is his capacity to care for others, and that leads him to extraordinary deeds of sacrifice to stop the evil that threatens those he loves. He struggles, fails, has help, makes mistakes, misjudges, and hurts, but he doesn't stop loving.

I love this.

So imagine my delight when I read a wonderful article from the New York Times titled "Your Brain on Fiction."  Now there is a dawning scientific understanding of why we connect so well with narrative fiction or poetry.

We readers were right all along. The characters are real to us, and we are not alone.


  1. Reading is the best! I've managed to overcome my anxiety (I'm an accountant, my sister is an english major) about reading (or even worse LIKING) the wrong stuff. I read what I like and stop reading if I don't like it. Unless it's for bookclub, which has really expanded my reading in the same way these card challenges expand my card making.

  2. Isn't that why we can cry, laugh, be afraid, get angry, of feel complete joy when we read? I can remember when John was reading "Five People You Meet in Heaven" and he was literally sobbing. Good writing takes you to a place where the characters are and makes them believable.

  3. Here's one I pinned a while ago. I understand.

  4. I know, right? ;)
    One of my favorite authors, Anne Bishop, had her most recent book published just a couple of weeks ago. Not only did I read it (twice) within two days of getting it - I went back and read the two previous books in the series in the last couple of days.
    Sometimes a book or character takes up permanent residence in my head. I feel sorry for those people who never go back a re-read books. Books are like family or really close friends - no matter how long I've known them there is always something to talk about. They *always* have something new to offer - or maybe I'm just in a different place inside myself and take away something new each time.
    One of my favorite (and the most true) quotes of all time says:

    What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.

    ~ J.D. Salinger

  5. My mom instilled a love of reading in my sisters and I. Not sure why the boys are not readers; but us girls take up the slack for them.

    We have monthly "ladies nights" and there are always a couple bags of paperbacks spread around.

    Mom always says you can go any where you want in a book. You can be anybody you want to be, you can travel, you can learn, you can escape. I've done all of that.

    I eagerly await new books from Catherine Coulter, Margaret Maron, Dana Stabenow, JA Jance and many others. The characters in those novels are like my friends. I want to know how there lives are going. How do they react to life, what is important to them, what are their surroundings like?

    I've long ago stopped apologizing because I do not read "good" fiction. I read what holds me, thrills me, makes me laugh, makes me cry.

    Books are my friends and I cannot imagine life without them.

  6. Facinating article Susan, thank you so much for the link, 'theory of mind' eh? Makes an awful lot of sense! Gay x

  7. Thanks for the link to the article. It's great. As an avid reader all my life, I've always believed in the importance of fiction. As a retired librarian, I revel in the time I now have to read more (and the fact that I can get it all for free at my local library).


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!