Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Novels?

An intriguing question was brought up lately by Jeff at Bearcastle. Why do people read novels, he asks, as opposed to other forms of writing. His conclusion is:

people are endlessly fascinated by people. My notion, then, is that people read stories about people because people capture our interest. Short stories and novels have plots and devices and structures and language and voice and all those technical bits, but above all they must have interesting people to succeed.

What do you think? What draws you to novels? Do you read to learn about a place or a way of being, for the structure and ideas alone, for a clever plot? I think Jeff is right; I'll read almost any genre if the characters are gripping. I am also drawn to atmosphere; an interesting and vibrantly evoked setting plus multidimensional characterization is more important than a plot, for me. Although plot is good, too, as long as it is supported by the other elements.

But the reason I choose fiction over factual reading, most of the time, is because I want to get inside other people and see the world from their perspective. It's the fascination of seeing things differently, of learning different ways to puzzle out the world, that I find enlivening in fiction. And that is why I will never run out of new novels to read.

7 comments:

  1. I'm always baffled at people who won't read fiction. This is the usual response: "Those people aren't real. It isn't true." How do you explain that at its best, fiction can be truer than many nonfiction books? I just end up sputtering helplessly.

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  2. Well I'm one who prefers reality to imaginary. So I prefer to read non fiction. Even reading memoirs and biographies still allows me to get inside another person's head and see the world from their point of view. I for one, don't feel like I am missing out by not reading novels.

    H

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  3. This is too short a response to do the question justice, but I like hearing what other voices see and think about the world they create. I will try and write something a little more coherent on my blog sometime soon -- because this is a *good* question.

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  4. I'm also a fictionaholic. I don't read enough non-fiction and kick myself about it sometimes because I know there is really good stuff out there. But at the same time I love the possibilities in fiction, the difficult questions that get asked and the varying answers that get posed. I also just absolutely love the writing. Good writing just invites me in and sets up a new world for me to explore - I love that.

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  5. I love reading about characters too; I'm bored by things that are too plotty -- give me people and relationships and ideas, and I'm happy.

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  6. Great points here. The possibilities of fiction, as Verbivore says, and the truth of fiction sometimes being truer than reality, as Bybee says, are two things that attract me to novels. I love the quote by Anna Quindlen that says: always a valuable lesson, when we insist on learning the world through books: that accuracy and truth are sometimes quite different things.

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  7. I prefer non fiction, but I do read novels. A lot of novels aren't very good. I prefer Hemingway or Naquib Mahfouz or James Lee Burke who are truely excellent writers. A book like David Bodanis' "Passionate Minds", although non fiction,is better than most novels out there.

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Thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you will leave your comments and reflections to let me know what you think!