The 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens is today. I love reading, love love love it! When people ask me what I enjoy most, I always say the same thing, ‘I will read anything, even sci-fi, except Harlequin romance.’ It’s similar to my dictum that I will listen to any music, except twangy country or big brassy band.
There are people that only read for pleasure, mostly fiction. And there are people that believe, should the time be invested, it may as well be for the knowledge in non-fiction. It is often said during school that reading history helps us to not only understand the past, but anticipate similar scenarios in the future and be better prepared for repeated unfortunate cycles of behavior. Some non-fiction elitist scoff at so much time invested in fiction, but ALL stories are who we truly are; and reading them can help us grow as much, if not more, than any trade-books or manuals might.
Any form of reading is expanding our horizons and culturally diversifying. When reading history, I started viewing the figures as great characters with exceptional stories to tell. What I once thought of as boring in school became exciting as an adult. And of course, any trade we are interested in or ‘how-to’ we want, we take to these manuals voraciously, like the cookbook with our favorite recipe.
But what is most exceptional about fiction, is the expose’ of our raw human nature, the naked truth about ourselves that we find no other place. A fiction writer has the liberty to put all the disgusting bits in character form, because they are ‘pretend’. Everything that is horrid, hateful, anger-filled and deeply hidden in our psyches can be freed up on the page. The more we are enveloped by a story, the more we are apt to learn about ourselves and find answers to questions about our own dispositions. Reading is freeing to our conscious because in seeing the raw natures, we become more excepting of ourselves. These immoral thoughts, perverted quirks, and general insecurities are rarely spoken of out-loud, but always used to describe ‘interesting’ characters. It is hard to admit in first person, but more comfortable for us to relate to a character when we are in the privacy of our minds and the book. Here we grow. We call these characters layered and rich, but they are no more so than ourselves. The fiction has ironically become the most honest expression of us.
In the last 2 months, I have read books ranging from the latest reigning stories and sexual proclivities of Catherine the Great to Life on the Line, the book about the Chicago chef of Alinea, Grant Achatz. He got tongue cancer and temporarily lost his ability to taste the food granting him a James Beard award. I just finished a sci-fi mirroring Orwells’ 1984 called 1Q84. Set in Japan, there is a cult, parallel realities and kinky sex. I have now started a moving fiction based on truth, called The Submission. A set of jurors in New York are chosen to pick which architect gets to re-design the Ground Zero memorial, and the man happens to be a Muslim. Much emotion erupts.
I don’t believe any television show can compete with what I have gained from these books. Read away!!! Feb, 7, 2012