Monday, March 10, 2008

Fiction because...

Posted by Lisa Marnell

I once asked an intelligent co-worker if she had read any good novels lately.

"Novels?" she echoed with a frown that deepened the creases (wrinkles?) that made their home in her forehead.

"Um, yeah, novels," I said. Was my question unclear? "Have you read anything good lately?"

"Oh! Fiction, you mean. Nothing, no fiction." She smiled as though our misunderstanding entertained her. "Lisa, please, do you know how long it takes to read a book?"

Of course, I know how long it takes to read a book. Hours. Hours of one's life. Hours that can disappear in seconds - when you're engaged. Hours that can be wasted, really. There's a novel I tried to read that shall remain nameless; I couldn't get past page seventy-two - I tried, really I did!

At the Muse & the Marketplace last year (Grub's Street delightful annual conference), I attended a session that discussed the meaning of fiction. It was thought-provoking; I write, after all, and presumably people will read my work someday. Teens will read my work, in fact.

Last week I posted an interview with Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why. Saturday, on his blog (Disco Mermaids) he posted letters from teens that were influenced by his story. Suicide, comtemplating suicide, had played a role in their lives; Jay's made a difference.

Take a look at Jay's entry to see the difference fiction can make in someone's life.

Have you read any good novels lately? I have.


Lisa said...

Yes, yes, yes. I just finished DISGRACE, by J.M. Coetzee and it was amazing. Right now I'm really enjoying THE DOUBLE BIND, by Chris Bohjalian. I guess fiction reading is either a priority or it's not. I know many people who, like me, couldn't imagine not devouring novels and then I also know many more people who never read them. It's hard to comprehend to me, but I suppose it really has everything to do with whether or not you were brought up with a love of books.

Therese said...

I can't imagine a novel-free life!!

I was just talking about this why-and-how fiction can matter at a book store event last week. (Preaching to the choir, I suppose, but still...)

Kudos to Jay for making a difference.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Of course novels can make a difference. The YA ones that help teenagers feel understood. The great literature that has literally changed the world. (I'm thinking of The Jungle and Grapes of Wrath to name two).

The books that helped me see the world differently, through new eyes--Night (I know, not a novel), To Kill a Mockingbird.

And now, ones that wrap me up in their stories like Therese's Souvenir.

Sure, they take up a few hours--but how better to spend that time?

Larramie said...

Hours to read and years to write, what better way to spend your time and discover your imagination?

Carleen Brice said...

I like your heading "fiction because." That's why I read fiction. Just because.

I do believe fiction can make a difference in people's lives, but it also can be art or entertainment just for the reader's pure enjoyment. That's valid too. Sometimes I think we expect the mandates of nonfiction to apply to fiction and they don't necessarily have to.

Anonymous said...

When I'm not reading a good novel, people around me know it. It's like there's something missing in my life. I get moody. I recently finished Ann Packer's "A Dive from Clausen's Pier". It was fabulous. I picked it up after reading an article she wrote in The Writer magazine. She described how long it took her to get her first novel written and published, and how she raised small children at the same time. So inspiring...

Lisa Marnell said...

Isn't our reason for reading interesting? I have to say, though, it's getting harder to read for just entertainment; I need to turn off the writer side of me to enjoy nad appreciate.