Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Difficult" fiction still important

[By Cynthia Becker]

The Nation has a great article on the virtues of difficult fiction:

It made several great points. Here are a few:

1. ... Great writers have a way of solidifying “the vague ideas that have been tumbling in the misty depths of our minds.”

While it's true that fiction books are not necessarily full of "facts" like nonfiction, they still have a lot to offer the world. Novels can be essentially limitless in their ideas, and they can be great observations of human behavior. They can point out new ideas and ways at looking at the world and can help you improve your own life, making you consider your outlooks on life.

2. Online reading invites quick glances; Mikics prefers the “silent, fascinated absorption” that comes with careful reading of a worthy book.

Not that online reading and social media don't have their place, but they are often about headlines. They are quick jabs that ask "can you believe this?" People often quickly click through them and move on. They don't become absorbed in the reading materials they same way they can with a book. But thinking through reading is also important for stretching the mind. And not having the point of a story come too early also teaches patience. We don't always know the point of a story (or life) right away, but we continue on to see what happens.

3. Careful reading is difficult because it demands continuous learning. We have to work to learn new methods of reading in response to new methods of writing.

Authors who do not write in a formulaic way demand that we keep learning -- not only with the ideas discussed, but also with the actual sentence structure and vocabulary chosen. With this kind of reading, we must constantly evaluate it. And in turn, this helps us evaluate new ideas in general. Because of that learning, it is important that difficult literature still is written so that we can continue to experience it.

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