Taking Sides: Fiction v. Non-Fiction

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I mainly read non-fiction, in particular history. That's when I'm not reading comics, of course. I like history because I like to learn new things about the world. How about you?

The Dirty Vicar, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

A mix. I like to read (crappy) biographies. But I also like to read fiction. Now I am reading Russell's book "The history of western philosophy". It depends on the mood I am in. Overall I like to read books written by men (Bukowski, Palahniuk, Carver, Johnson, Crews,...).

nathalie, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

As muttered in the other lit thread just now, histories and social studies of all sorts are of great interest to me and always have been. The most recent one I read was part of a study on the book trade business and intellectual context of reading in pre-Revolutionary France, which helped point out the problem with the post-1789 construct that assumed that everyone read the Enlightenment greats and therefore demanded their rights. Instead the underground 'best-sellers' were a mix of political pornography, utopian projections and libels of all sorts. In which case, what has changed, really? ;-)

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I mainly read non-fiction, in particular history. That's when I'm not reading comics, of course. I like history because I like to learn new things about the world. How about you?

I'm tempted to say "I like fiction because I like to learn new things about the world" but I'm not quite sure what that would mean.

jamesmichaelward, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Instead the underground 'best-sellers' were a mix of political pornography, utopian projections and libels of all sorts.

Is that, um, Robert Darnton? I read his stuff in a great French Revolution class I took in my junior year in college. Very interesting and, overall, very convincing ideas. Desacralization of the monarchy through underground tracts and all that.

Phil, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I prefer fiction and books about religion. I like history as a subject but I generally read historical fiction or books by authors from the time period of interest because I lose interest in a subject unless it is set up as a story.

Maria, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Is that, um, Robert Darnton?

The very same. Found this book of his by chance over in the UK used and thought I would give it a whirl.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I'm a history buff. So I have to be a fiction buff because hiSTORY _is_ fiction, people. The facts and figures of the past are life tea leaves, and seventeen historians can write a history of a single event and (like, say, the late 60s hippie movement) have completely different spins on the subject, without straying from the original source material.

I'm not saying that history is worthless. Far from it. I just suggest that you take what you read in history books with a handful a salt.

That said, my favorite historians are John Keegan, Robert Leckie and Barbara Tuchman.

But, although history repeats itself and we need to learn from our mistakes, it's our capacity to imagine that has made our species great. Hence, you're likely to find me curled up on a Sunday afternoon, with the latest Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, or Robin Hobb Scientantasy novel.

Jack Redelfs, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I seldom read novels, history, politics, newspapers and magazines just interest me more. When I do read novels they generally reflect these interests. Not sure this is healthy. Occasional tokenistic poetry reading non-withstanding.

stevo, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

I used to only read fiction, collecting all of my practical information from periodicals and reading enough reviews of non- fiction books to absorb the gist of the information within. But now that I work hawking non-fiction scholarly books to people, I read a lot more of them as well.

Speaking of hawking books -- Ned, if you're interested in the early book trade, may I recommend The Nature of the Book by Adrian Johns?

Nitsuh, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

Darn you and your recommendations, that's another thing I'll have to read! ;-)

Jack is of course right, but it's also the ability of a writer to make history read like an interesting story, if you will, that helps ground things. There will always be spin, to be sure -- but the alternate approach is either cold running down of statistics or presentation of original source material without any commentary.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

at the moment i prefer fiction, in particular sci-fi.

when i was at university, i only read theory, cos i didn't have time to read much else. since graduating, i prefer fictiion.

di, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
I have a very hard time convincing myself that fiction, generally speaking, is as important as non-fiction. If I want to understand the world, I turn to non-fiction, primarily. If I start a novel or short story without having any particular reason to be interested in it, I find myself feeling like, "Why should I care about these imaginary people, their broken watches, their unkempt gardens, and visiting cousins from Finland?" It seems to me that it is easier to know ahead of time that you are going to be intereste in a work of non-fiction. Even if a novel is, say, "about the place of virtual communities in the life of a smalltown teen's coming of age," it might be dealt with so indirectly that it hardly seems about that.

I can enjoy reading certain works of fiction for some of their formal qualities, but I don't feel much urgeny about doing so.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 16 February 2003 22:35 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

but there might be an argument that says fiction allows you experience the worlds you are interested in rather than just notch up knowledge...

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 16 February 2003 22:38 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I have said in my more pompous moments something that I'm pretty sure I pinched from someone else, but can't remember who: that I read non-fiction for facts, but fiction for truth. It's nonsense a lot of the time, but I feel I understand special different things about people from reading great novels than what I get from reading about psychology or sociology. I've read loads of books about architecture, and gothic cathedrals are a particular interest, but I think I value what I learnt about that sort of thing from William Golding's The Spire more than from any non-fiction book.

But mostly it's a preference. I read for my enjoyment, not from some sort of educational or self-improvement intent. I guess close to 90% of my literary reading is prose fiction (and 98% of my comics reading is fiction), and probably three quarters of the rest is art books.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 16 February 2003 22:47 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Why do people who read lots of fiction not usually have better than average people skills then (based on anecdotal evidence)? (Of course, this leaves me for the retort: why do people who read in the social sciences not have better people skills?)

It's not just a matter of "notching up" knowledge. One of the things I like about reading non-fiction is that I can often make connections between what I am reading and what I have already read; or for that matter, I can make a connection between what I am reading and the world at large. I feel more passive when I read fiction. When I read non-fiction I feel that I am actively involved in relating it to questions that interest me.

As for reading for enjoyment, I think I genuinely enjoy non-fiction more than ficition, most of the time.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:08 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Why do people who read lots of fiction not usually have better than average people skills then (based on anecdotal evidence)? (Of course, this leaves me for the retort: why do people who read in the social sciences not have better people skills?)

because they've just come back from another world? because they spent too much time lying on their backs in their room, alone?
its a bad generalisation Rocket, and based on anecdotal evidence i don't find it true. I do find non-fiction readers to be more dogmatic though...

Actually i'm in the middle on this one. I read half-and-half.

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:28 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

The things I learn about other people from fiction tend to be things that make me more compassionate or idealistic, not things that make me better at small talk. "People skills" are mostly small talk.

Maria (Maria), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:34 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

in fact idealism is generally the opposite of people skills!!

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:36 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

do i sense an ideal vs material split here?

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:38 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

gaz, that was directed at Martin specifically. So gaz, you think that people who read fiction do in fact have better than average people skills? I was saying that I haven't found that to be true (not necessarily that they have worse ones).

I'm not knocking fiction reading, really. Maybe I just don't know how to read it properly. But I've never felt that I gained much wisdom from it.

*

"People skills" is an ugly expression, I guess, but it seems to me that it should be one of the results of real psychological insight. I think it goes way beyond small talk.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:38 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Some of my college professors could hardly get off the elevator without being hit by the doors. I find that sort of extreme otherworldliness a turn off.

Rockist Scientist, Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:40 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

:(

i'm not so hott after all...

*doors hits me*

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:42 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

you think that people who read fiction do in fact have better than average people skills?
Depends on what fiction they read...nah, i'm not sure. I haven't really noticed any correlation. And I just realised thats Rockist Scientist, not Rocket. So much for my reading skills...

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 16 February 2003 23:43 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Why does this have to be an "either/or" subject? I love some genres of fiction and detest others. And I love some genres of non-fiction and detest others. Fiction and non-fiction satisfy different needs at different times, and I am thankful have both to turn to when I am in need of my "written word" fix (which is pretty much constant, these days).

I do believe that fiction, in some ways, sheds light on new worlds and new ideas and new concepts - basically fodder for the imagination. However, I find that the same is true for lots of the non-fiction that I read, too.

I don't think that one can make any sort of generalization about how someone who does/doesn't read fiction has/lacks certain social skills. I do believe that if someone has lived a life where they've only read non-fiction and not interacted much with people, then yes, they might be lacking in some social graces - however, I think that might well be more a result of how they live and how they interact with people as children and then as adults - maybe their reading reflects a lack of interest in social issues/people issues/whatever you want to call them, as opposed to it being the non-fiction which makes them lack certain skills.

I could, of course, be totally off the mark with this. And, of course, there are some fields of non-fiction that are *very* people-oriented (some histories, authobiographies, and biographies, etc.) And there are some fields of fiction that tend to concentrate more on "non-fiction facts" than on character development and interaction and such (like some hard SciFi, some fictional historical writing, etc.)

So, there's my two cents - I'll now go back to reading a children's fantasy book, to be followed by some book about Ravens in Winter, by a naturalist *grin*

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Monday, 17 February 2003 02:52 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

You may be on to something, IPOW, since on some level I think I am less interested in other people than most people are. At work, I gossip less than others, not out of some sort of virtue, but for lack of interest. On the other hand, my nonfiction reading includes a good dose of the social sciences and memoirs.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I was a good reader, but I didn't read most of the books that the good readers read, which were generally novels. I was attracted to non-fiction works of various sort, though I wasn't very good at finishing anything. When I was a teenager, I read more poetry than anything else, and again, fiction tended to take a back seat. What I read was usually "poet's fiction," with lots of upfront language play.

Rockist Scientist, Monday, 17 February 2003 03:03 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I think I engage with fiction at a literary level as much as non-fiction, not as a passive observer but engaged in an argument about the world so nuanced that it is sublimated into a story.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Monday, 17 February 2003 03:07 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

RS - my live-in SO is completely non-social, except in very select situations (with me and the other SO, basically). He is completely removed at work - he honestly doesn't give a damn about the gossip (but that doesn't mean he doesn't care for his co-workers and doesn't go out of his way to do nice things for them when they're ill and so forth).

To be perfectly honest, I don't care much for people - but I have good social skills, so everyone thinks that I am social and caring and stuff. It's more that I am a dis-interested bystander who looks on the gossip and such in slight amusement and puzzlement. And my anti-social tendencies are very much reflected in the fact that I'd rather be reading than doing just about anything else - it's my way of retreating from the world, and it's a pattern that's been in place since first-grade, much to the dismay of teachers and parents and the few friends I had in grade school. Now, thank goodness, I can escape and read and not have to worry about not being social.

Anyway, there is a difference between reading in the social sciences and memoirs and stuff and reading the "hard" science/non-fiction genres. But I think that fiction is more "emotional" and the non-fiction is less so - but, then again, what about Holocaust memoirs and so forth? Hmmm...I need to think this through some more.

I'm Passing Open Windows (Ms Laura), Monday, 17 February 2003 03:44 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

RS, I'm trying to say what I get from fiction and why I prefer it. I'm not claiming it gives me better social skills, nor am I denying that you can extend your understanding of people as well or better through non-fiction. I think we're really more explaining our own tastes than making sound arguments about the relative worth of the two forms.

Some of my college professors could hardly get off the elevator without being hit by the doors. I find that sort of extreme otherworldliness a turn off.

Were you citing this as support for your argument, that fiction readers don't have great social skills? Surely college professors, unless they teach lit, are as predominantly non-fiction readers as anyone anywhere? Anyway, that's being preoccupied with intellectual matters I think, and nothing much to do with what sort (and I bet it's as true of mathematicians - more so, in the stereotypes - as of arts professors).

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Monday, 17 February 2003 13:25 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

The phrase "other SO" piqued my interest.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 17 February 2003 23:15 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

RS - do you still read poetry; & would you class it w/fiction?

(haha "a poem is what a poet makes when he is passionately interested in something else", etc; y'know, picking up reality at the traces & so on)

& uh has anyone vouched for reading for pleasure/fun/etc as opposed to IMPORTANCE&suchlike? Nonfiction can be boring, badly-constructed & in general lacking epiphanies & etc.

Ess Kay (esskay), Monday, 17 February 2003 23:46 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Ess Kay, I hardly ever read poetry now, and it seems to me that it deserves its own category. When I read non-fiction for pleasure, it's for the pleasure of learning things, not generally for the pleasure of the (I'm trying not to say it) text.

Martin, I was an English major (so I'm thinking primarily of English professors). I don't mean to be as argumentative as I'm sounding, if that makes any sense. Or if I am turning this into an argument, it's not one I actually take very seriously.

Rockist Scientist, Monday, 17 February 2003 23:57 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

The phrase "other SO" piqued my interest.

IPOW is quite open about it! She's got her live-in and her non-live-in.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 00:02 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

"pleasure of learning things" => Borges! & lots of other authors! (possibly Calvino/Eco/etc - hysterical realism to thread perhaps!)

Ess Kay (esskay), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 00:13 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Yes you can learn things all sorts of places, but I mean learning about specific things I happen to be interested in, or finding potential answers to questions that I'm concerned with. (And I have read Borges, but that was mentioned on the thread I started about my fiction loving some time SO.)

Rockist Scientist, Tuesday, 18 February 2003 00:17 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Do you prefer docos too RS?

gaz (gaz), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 03:48 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I hardly ever go to the movies, gaz. No, I don't necessarily prefer documentaries. My taste in movies tends to lean toward foreign/art house films, with some exceptions.

Rockist Scientist, Tuesday, 18 February 2003 12:58 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

How about fiction based on a true story? Worst of both worlds, mostly.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 13:00 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

no way, Martin! Hilary Mantel's book about the French revolution is completely brilliant (according to my fiction reading friends). I also got great enjoyment from Amin Maalouf's "The ROCK of Tanios", which is set among real events in 19th century Lebanon.

I'm on a fiction buzz at the moment, having just finished and greatly enjoyed Margaret Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale".

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 13:08 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Dramatised versions of real events = oft dud.
Fiction that takes place in the backdrop of real events = oft good.

But I'm a fiction man through and through. As evidenced by my lying streak.

Pete (Pete), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 13:11 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Martin: MASON AND DIXON!

RickyT (RickyT), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 13:17 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

you mean Gravity's Rainbow wasn't based on a true story? (or 346,042 true stories?)

Justyn Dillingham (Justyn Dillingham), Tuesday, 18 February 2003 15:58 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I think M&D is only rather loosely based on truth, which is fine by me. I confess that my distaste for 'based on a true story' is more to do with films than books.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Wednesday, 19 February 2003 18:09 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I have to back up DV here and say that Hilary Mantel's French Revolutionary novel (A Place Of Greater Safety) is a v good book. However - as someone who only had a vague idea of what went on in the French Revolution - I found I enjoyed reading it more after I'd also read some non-fiction books about the same period.

caitlin (caitlin), Wednesday, 19 February 2003 21:57 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I couldn't be less interested in reading non-fiction. (Actually, I don't even care about most fiction unless it's science fiction, fantasy or horror.)

Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Wednesday, 19 February 2003 22:02 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

Is ILE non-fiction (with a bit of sci-fi, fantasy & horror thrown in?)

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 19 February 2003 22:06 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

I started reading Mrs. Dalloway, since my SO is reading it, and since I've had some modest inerest in reading Woolf. So far I am bored. I don't care about these people at all, and Woolf is spending too much time demonstrating that people are a bit foolish.

I can't do it. I will have to take a closer look at any book she suggests, before I plunge into it. I have too many things I really would like to be reading.

A Music Consumer, Monday, 3 March 2003 03:25 (sixteen years ago) Permalink

three months pass...
I think it may be significant that, according to all the library literature I've seen (and I haven't seriously researched it), boys tend to prefer non-fiction over fiction. There is some discussion of the possibility that boys are not being adequately served by their school libraries (in backward places where tax-and-spend liberal types make it possible for school libraries to still exist), because the collection is slanted toward non-fiction. I was glancing at some sort of ALA publication which discussed this, but even it then went on wringing its hands over the fact that boys were missing out by not reading linear narrative type things. Is it really so important? What about non-fiction narrative? Duh, I don't think its existence was even mentioned in this book I was looking at.

Rockist Scientist, Saturday, 21 June 2003 17:24 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Just recently my girlfriend and I were discussing the fact that she really doesn't like nonfiction (I was trying to get her to read something) and I really almost don't see the point in reading fiction. It seems like a waste of time.

It's a rare piece of fiction that has me interested enough to read. Off the top of my head, the only fictional books that I enjoyed enough to remember are "Catcher In The Rye", a few by Philip K. Dick and William Gibson, the Illuminatus! trilogy, Ham on Rye, Fear And Loathing... uh.... Nothing else is springing to mind except "The Fuckup", which I read basically for the title and cover design (but I did enjoy the book, too).

scaredy cat, Saturday, 21 June 2003 17:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

four months pass...
hello

jamie carr, Thursday, 23 October 2003 17:35 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

hello.

What about non-fiction narrative? Duh, I don't think its existence was even mentioned in this book I was looking at.

good point. what is fab about a non-fiction book like CV Wedgewood's "The King's Peace" is the way it cracks along with the pace of a novel ONLY IT'S ALL TRUE.

DV (dirtyvicar), Thursday, 23 October 2003 21:51 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Yes, that's a good trick if you can do it - Capote's In Cold Blood and Wambaugh's The Onion Field strike me as the best examples I've read.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Friday, 24 October 2003 10:55 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
This past week, I was in the popular library (sub-department of the library where I work) browsing the new non-fiction books. I overheard a woman say to her boyfriend or husband (presumably): "I am looking at these for you, since I know you don't read real books." It was very hard for me not to jump in and start an argument. Maybe I misunderstood her, but it seemed that by real books she meant novels.

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 24 December 2003 18:42 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
Revive.

RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:37 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I hate them both. Oh wait.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:37 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

but only math-nerdz like non-fiction, right?

scott seward (scott seward), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:51 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

IT'S NOT TRUE.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

it is true.

caitlin oh no (caitxa1), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:55 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

*weeps tears of bitter acknowledgement* Actually in elementary and middle school math was my thing but I burned out by tenth grade. Calculus did me in.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 23 March 2005 23:56 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"reading makes me fall asleep" -- a girl i know.

ned total OTM for me w/r/t mathz.

Richard K (Richard K), Thursday, 24 March 2005 00:03 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i don't think i EVER passed a math class in high school. i spent a lot of time in summer school. which is one reason why i hate math and only read fiction (but no pynchon or david foster wallace, the non-fiction fan's fiction exceptions. and no nabokov! no games inside of riddles inside of anagrams inside of puzzle boxes!).

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 March 2005 00:17 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

but no pynchon or david foster wallace, the non-fiction fan's fiction exceptions
ha!

Ken L (Ken L), Thursday, 24 March 2005 00:25 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

and Eco!

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 March 2005 00:29 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

What the hell is with this theory that those who read non-fiction like math? I debunk that conception...my strong point was Social Studies.

What we want? Sex with T.V. stars! What you want? Ian Riese-Moraine! (Eastern Ma, Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:01 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

someone made that theory up on another thread. i thought i'd keep it going in true internet fashion.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I've almost completely given up on fiction these days! but on the other hand, my fav. fiction authors were always the "non-fictionists'" exceptions.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:42 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

also i have no fucking idea what i was trying to say upthread!

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:43 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

you had probably read too much vollmann that day. or an epic play-by- play account of the fischer/spassky match. whatever you math guys read to unwind.

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:51 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Sterling, you sounded very sure of yourself. I always wondered what you meant, but was a little afraid to ask for fear of feeling inadequate if the explanation would assume a knowledge of European philosophy from Hegel on.

Maybe you were just high?

RS £aRue (rockist_scientist), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:52 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

sterling, you should read The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf by Jack Douglas. Then move on to Shut Up And Eat Your Snowshoes by Jack Douglas. Then read some Peter De Vries. You will love De Vries! Then maybe a little S.J. Perelman to cleanse your palate. Then read Edward Dahlberg's two autobiographical books because no one else will and i have nobody to talk to about them. okay?

scott seward (scott seward), Thursday, 24 March 2005 02:57 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

You've been reading Dahlberg? What's the once with Flesh in the title? Before I Was (Made) Flesh?

Ken L (Ken L), Thursday, 24 March 2005 03:05 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I love Shut Up And Eat Your Snowshoes. I read it first when I was, like, about 10, and the opening paragraph (involving, who is it, Racquel Welsh's nipples and the trauma they feel when separated by a push-up bra, something like that) was so far over my head that I knew I was in for a good ride. And I read it again a few years ago and was surprised that it still held up as a funny and sweet book.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 24 March 2005 03:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

five years pass...

My girlfriend tends to prefer nonfiction. Lately she's been enjoying Jonathan Franzen's Freedom but also says she can't wait to get back to "learning something."

It seems like a lot of people who dislike fiction think it's a waste of time to read about a made-up world. But to me this suggests a weirdly puritanical attitude that reading should always be educational. Aren't the inherent pleasures of fiction -- a well-drawn character, an expertly constructed narrative, a beautifully crafted sentence -- sufficiently enriching? Or does the preferrer of nonfiction not even recognize them as pleasures?

I'll admit, though, that in some ways I identify with the PoNF. For one, I like my novels to have a bit of social realism or cultural commentary in them. And in addition to the pleasures outlined above, part of why I do read fiction -- which is almost always of the "literary" bent -- is to become conversant with certain cultural works. Which is probably more foolishly dutiful, in a sense, than reading merely to learn stuff about the world.

Zsa Zsa Gay Bar (jaymc), Tuesday, 21 December 2010 15:47 (eight years ago) Permalink


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