This might be something avid readers were asked on one occasion or more. Ever since I made it pretty evident I prefer reading in those interstices between classes in college, and during traveling, even with friends (because then apart from a few minutes at bedtime, there's just no time :/ ), people have noticed how often my nose's stuck in a book. And those books are almost always in the genre of Fiction (unless it's a college reading or a non-fiction review book). It wasn't long before people started asking why I prefer Fiction, after bluntly stating that they always prefer non-fiction for knowledge and don't want to waste time with stories. Mind you, these are people doing a Masters in Business Administration, most of them uninterested in stories per se, so I don't mind answering them back. Besides, someone has to tell them, or at least try to put forward their own awesome views, something that challenges their way of thinking.
A couple of weeks ago in a relatively boring class, a classmate-friend passed me a sheet of paper with the same question. She was curious. She wanted to read, but she was also clouded with this pre-conceived notion that Fiction isn't useful, it's just made-up stories and not real. Her question was genuine. I wrote back a reply to her, making it as short and concise as possible, trying to fully justify the short answer. Here's a snapshot of our little 'passing-of-notes-conversation':
|Please bear with the handwriting :P|
Also, there's a little bit of Hindi in the question and
first line of the answer.
What I believe in, and I'm sure Fiction readers would agree, is the simple fact that 'Fiction' is just a name for something that doesn't exist as a whole in real life. The whole story may not be real, but we do know writers are amazing observers, right? What we read about in stories has some inkling to reality. The characterization of the characters, the setting, if not real, it might be built upon something that exists. The messages they convey, the relationships they show, the meanings they imply, they're all real. They also have facts spread in between.
Among the lines I wrote in this note, were these: "The only difference is that in Fiction, you learn things in an implied manner, depending upon your perception. Non-fiction gives you straight facts. I've started reading non-fiction too, because yes it is interesting, but fiction is far more interesting, mostly because it gives you perspective and understanding".
Really. You understand. People. Behaviour. Maybe you'd know about the life of a kind of person who's totally the opposite of how you are, of people living with diseases, of people losing their loved ones, of people on the other side of the planet. Doesn't it tell you so much more than non-fiction? I won't start comparing the two because it is not the subject of this post, but I have to give my view. Fiction makes you see many realities and you do it on your own. It's not in-your-face. It's up to you how you understand it, how you interpret it. This classmate-friend later in the day met another girl who's an avid fiction reader and asked the same question. She agreed with what I'd said and also added, "fiction completely shows you things the way one person (the author) imagined them". Isn't that an amazing observation? :D I'm going to add this to my fiction-is-real supporting argument! ;)
What do you think? Were you ever confronted with this dilemma? Or this question? :)
PS- The best thing about reading is that it inspires. It totally makes other people want to read for themselves, especially if they see you engrossed in a book, lost and enjoying it! The genuine, secure-about-themselves people might even tell you they feel like reading because of you, or that they have read a book they loved, because of you, because they saw you and felt the desire to do the same. It feels just amazing when you get to know that! This blog has given me this kind of a feel so many times. I love the observed fact that one person can spread this love, or at least a curiosity and interest to people around them. There's nothing better one could do, right? :D