Friday, February 04, 2005

Finally another stray thought!

I've got a couple thoughts I wrote up then put aside and, feeling guilty, I was going to post one just so I kept to at least one post every month, but my mind found a moment of peace in a chaos of largely self-imposed deadlines to throw out a bone.

So here's the question: Is it hypocritical, or at least contradictory, to aggrandize a culture that has little time or inclination for reading in, well, books?

Now as usual, providing an answer is just a bit too easy, so instead, I'm going to muse on the question.

First of all, though the original spark came from a comment about fantasy, I think it may relate to the majority of stories out there on some level or another. Do books support living vicariously, or do they actually encourage a life without reading? Here are a couple completely fictional scenarios, but who knows, they could happen.

Say a child grew up reading the Marguerite Henry horse books and absolutely fell in love with horses. Given the opportunity, would she choose to read more books, thus continuing the reading tradition? Or would she throw away her vicarious fantasies in favor of becoming a show rider, a master breeder or an equine conservationist?

Same with fantasy. What if some children grew up on fantasy, the medieval cultures, armor, swords, good mead, and then found out about the Society of Creative Anachronism? Would they give up the chance to wear armor, battle, and generally behave like the characters in their favorite stories to just curl up and read about them?

A similar question comes up with role playing. Does it provide what books can only imitate, that of a voice in the story?

While I'm definitely not suggesting writers should stop writing tales where the heroes and heroines do anything other than read (absolutely not!), it doesn't hurt to step back and consider the implications. The art of storytelling began as a teaching tool around the fire to pass on the wisdom of previous generations in the only way we knew how. Now, all pretensions aside, fiction has become just another form of entertainment along with the TV, video games, and actual outdoor activity (the last becoming even rarer than reading at least among the younger crowd).

I guess this thought is more stray than most, but it struck me as odd how fiction seeks to absorb people into activities, some of which they could experience in real life but which would take time away from the very reading that opened their eyes to that possibility. Now, with you all wishing I had posted one of the thoughts I have in my backlog, I'm going to go curl up with a book ;).


Anonymous said...

Neat thought. I can only answer for me, but reading opens doors to worlds I sometimes choose to participate in. I know the source. I still read. I have a lot of interests, but my interest in reading has never flagged. I suspect it may be true for others as well. I don't believe reading and a living a life are mutually exclusive.


Holly said...

For me, the answer would be: Both, plus one more.

Loved horses. My parents got me a horse. Still read about horses.

Loved fantasy. Designed and made costumes, still read about fantasy, also became a writer of the fantasies I loved.

In other areas, I have also both read and done, and would some day like to write about having done. In the best of all worlds, I think passions feed each other.

Margaret said...

I'd have to say both of you said what's true for me too, but it would be nice if the other activities sent people to become new readers as well :). Though, that's true at least for some. For example, costuming has taken several of my friends down a serious research track, one they'd probably have rebelled against in school :D.