I have a few friends, men mostly, who refuse to read fiction and that includes reading mine. Their excuse is they have so little time that when they do crack a book, the material must be significant. By inference, fiction has no significance – the fluffy pastime of women who sigh over tall, dark handsome strangers. Obviously, these men have never met Thomas Mann or Virginia Wolf or Margaret Atwood, which inclines me to pity them.
Books of fiction and non-fiction should be in everyone’s library as each contains information of a different kind. To chose one exclusively above the other is like attending a smorgasbord and filling your plate with potato salad.
True, much can be learned by examining history or science. But for life’s lesson no substitute exists for fiction. Only on these pages can the raw nerves of human nature can be thrown upon a screen and enlarged. Only there does the heart of darkness reveal the subtlety of its detail. Facts, for all their fascination, remain outside us, providing information that may affect our existence, but never showing who we are as emotional creatures.
As a study by the New School for Social Research concludes, fiction “enables people to better understand other people’s feelings and perspectives.” (“Why Novels Make You Nicer,” Health & Science section, The Week, Oct. 25, 2013, pg. 19) They did their investigation by asking people between the ages of 18 and 75 to read a few popular short stories. After that, the subjects were tested on their ability to determine emotions from people’s photographs. Subjects who read literature prior to the tests did better than those in the control group.
So listen up all you devotees of non-fiction. When it comes to navigating the world of human relations, readers of fiction possess a better compass.
(Courtesy of www.harpercollins.co.in)