Friday, October 17, 2014

On Reading Fiction Books

Here is a question for me to ramble about today: Why am I prejudiced against fiction?

Or am I?  I can think of some fiction books that I enjoyed.  After I finished them, I felt as if I had eaten a wholesome meal.  Some of them stayed with me for a while.  I think of such books as Stephen King’s Insomnia or The Stand, or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, or Frank Peretti’s The Visitation.  

But there is a part of me that feels that, when I am reading a fictional book, I am wasting my time.  I feel more like I have accomplished something after reading a below-average non-fiction book, than I do when I have read an average or slightly above-average fiction book.  Maybe part of my problem is that so many fiction books these days are written at the sixth-grade level, so I feel as if they are a waste of my time.  Maybe I want to appear smart to others, and I fear that they would not be impressed with my reading of certain popular fictional works.  Or maybe my problem is that I think fiction-books present a made-up situation and made-up characters, and I prefer what is real.  (Of course, postmodernists can have a heyday questioning my assumptions, there!)  Another consideration: so many fiction books look the same.  They have similar characters, plots, etc.  I say this from my limited standpoint.  Imagine what people who have read a lot of fiction books for years might think!

For some reason, I do not have the same problem with movies or TV shows.  The reason could be that I am seeing and hearing the characters, and that makes them seem real to me.  I don’t know.  The thing is, books may actually present a more realistic picture because they look at characters’ thoughts and feelings.

I can probably argue the opposite—-in favor of fiction over non-fiction.  There are plenty of non-fiction books that cover things that I do not care about.  They can be really dry.  There is a part of me that likes to read about the human—-human struggles, human virtues, human vices.  When I can identify with a character or person, that is even better.  There are non-fiction books that explore this territory.  There are fiction books that do this, too.

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