Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fact or Fiction?

A friend of a friend happened to mention that she doesn't read books. Not fiction ones anyway. She said that she'd "rather be living life than reading about made-up ones," and anyway "it makes you dissatisfied with everything, especially all that romance stuff." Which rather begged the question, "How do you know if you don't read books?"

I kept schtum because I don't know her that well and didn't want to upset my friend by suggesting her friend is clearly a bit poorly in the coconut.

Okay that's a bit harsh, but I was miffed by the implication that because I've read a love story or forty(thousand) in the past, I'm as bitter as an olive that men in real life tend not to be brooding, chiselled, tousle-haired heros in tight-fitting trousers, waiting to sweep me off my feet and ravish me. Well, not the ones I've met anyway. (All right, so I'm a tiny bit bitter.)

Neither am I limp with disappointment that I don't have a wardrobe full of vintage clothes and can't ride a horse - or run my own PR company, or whatever else friend of friend imagines lies between the pages of the books I read. And they're mostly not romance anyway. (Not that there's anything wrong with romance novels, obviously.)

I think she's missing out. Reading isn't a substitute for real life, it enhances it. Yes it's an indulgence and it's escapism, but so's getting pissed and she does that A LOT (apparently) and it's much worse for your liver.

Fiction increases your knowledge too - I've learnt loads over the years about culture, history, disability, science and, of course, human nature. It's given me a lot of comfort at times - and definitely stopped me from getting under my mum's feet when I was a child. (We didn't have a telly and I never did like Monopoly.)

Oh, and it's taught me how to commit the perfect murder without getting caught. Not that I ever would, you understand.

Unless our kitchen isn't finished by Christmas ...


Suzanne Jones said...

Some people are very odd. I can't imagine a life without fiction.


Helen said...

Oh I feel sorry for her. Imagine living a life without books :(

And I'd much rather escape in a book than out on the lash!

Marieke said...

Reading definitely enriches my life too! I can't even imagine living without books!

L'Aussie said...

What? Life without fiction? Who'd want to live there? Sometimes people need the right book to get started - like all those stories about young 'uns and Harry Potter..:)

Colette McCormick said...

Life without books? Don't fancy it myself.

KarenG said...

Well it takes all kinds to make a world I guess, even book haters.

Adina West said...

Escapism. Such a beautiful word, and it keeps many many writers in business.

I too grew up without a TV and can't imagine life without ever having read a romance novel. I think the fact that fiction isn't real life is the whole point, and what we love about it.

She's missing out, and so's her liver...

Teka Cox said...

Reading is very important, I totally agree. One can learn a lot and you are more knowledgeable about the world.

Queenie said...

I read an interview in the Observer magazine yesterday with James Ellroy, novelist, aged 62. I've never read any of Mr Ellroy's books but I know he's a successful crime writer. He says in the interview that he doesn't read; he stopped reading in his 30s. I thought 'how interesting, how sad'. I know some people simply don't enjoy reading, or don't enjoy reading fiction, which is fair enough - but why be judgemental about those who do? Mr Ellroy, not surprisingly, didn't take this line himself.

Jan Jones said...

Agree. I can't imagine a world without fiction. If novels didn't exist, I'd have to write them.

Oh, wait a minute...

Gorilla Bananas said...

Hang on ladies, she said she didn't read fiction, not that she didn't read at all! Karen's point about fiction increasing knowledge is important. Good fiction does inform you about characters and events and might occur (or have occurred) in real life. That's the kind of fiction you like, yes?

Alis said...

Yes, I'm always slightly thrown when people say they never read fiction. I always wonder why they're so dismissive when there's such a breadth of ficiton out there. Perhaps they've just been pointed in the wrong direction for them?

Denise said...

I'm always surprised when people say they don't read fiction, but then some people seem equally put out that I don't want children. I try to keep that comparison in my head when talking to them, else the phrase 'You don't read, are you mad?' get perilously close to coming out!

I'm getting an image of your kitchen, defending itself against all attempts to finish it and make it work for a living. You'll have to catch it unawares.

Anna said...

Oh my goodness again you made me laugh out loud! Thankfully I'd just swallowed my tea...

Now, to the rest of the post, as the end was too funny for words! Someone who actually says that sort of drivel needs to slapped up the head, and you showed tremendous discretion. I suppose she watches loads of TV instead? either way, oi!

But thanks once again for giving me such a bouncy start to my day!

Debs said...

What's wrong with the woman? She obviously doesn't know how to live. I love reading fiction and can't imagine not doing so. She doesn't know what she's missing.

Fran said...

Someone should put her in a novel. I like the idea of a main character who doesn't read fiction, then finds herself caught up in a world in which incredible things happen.

Teresa Ashby said...

I think I'd go mad if I couldn't escape into a good book! Takes all sorts I suppose.

Jean said...

I have a friend who says she doesn't read fiction because she wants the truth. Wot?? I think she's missing out on so much with not reading fiction, but I just don't know how to convince her. I suppose I could get on my high horse and quote Emerson to her: "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." But I'm sure it would get me nowhere.

Lane said...

Imagine living in your own head all the time. That's the stuff of madness:-)

Hope that kitchen is well on the way to completion. I don't want to read about it being dug up from somebody's patio in a few years.

joanne fox said...

Someone I know at work told me quite proudly that he'd never read a book in his life.

"What, never?" I asked, shocked.
"No," he said, "never."

Then in another conversation he told me he didn't particularly like animals - and I just knew then that he and I were from entirely different planets!

Dumdad said...

One man's meat etc.

But I like this quote:

"People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading."
— Logan Pearsall Smith

I wouldn't go that far but reading (fiction and non-fiction) has given me, and continues to give me, enormous pleasure.

LilyS said...

I love books for the escapism - how else will i experience a bit of romance!

Elle said...

Having been a book lover since I was able to hold one, I also can't imagine life without books.

However, some people simply can't 'get into' reading. Some just don't particularly enjoy it. Just like you may not enjoy some of THEIR hobbies. Whereas I agree on the fact that fiction teaches yo so much and opens up so many different worlds, I don't 'feel sorry' for anyone who chooses not to read, as someone above has commented. Reading fiction doesn't make a person better than someone who doesn't.

Escapism comes in many forms. Reading fiction is just one of them.

Jenny Beattie said...

I'm laughing at: 'a bit poorly in the coconut.'

I'm with the others. I can't imagine a life without reading. I'm not sure it'd be worth living. Really.

Ann said...

LOL! I am so in awe of your restraint.

But as Helen says you really must feel sorry for your friend's friend. She is missing out on a wonderful world. To me a world without books would be a dull uninteresting, totally boring world to live in.

HelenMHunt said...

I really can't imagine not reading fiction. I do believe it enriches life to read about the experiences of others whether they be real life accounts or fiction.

Jen Daiker said...

This was an awesome post! I'm a new follower *waves* and your blog post kept me begging for more!

It's sad to hear people say they don't have time for books, or books are for lazy people. I of course, would want to ask her a ton of questions, what she does in her spare time, how she fufills her life in other ways.

Though those romances I adore aren't real life, you learn that there are pieces of your husband that have those amazing qualitites...

Life can't always fill your glass, but books... books can fill any emptiness!

Kath said...

I can't imagine not reading but I guess she probably does stuff that I wouldn't dream of doing. There's room for us all - some of us have to be the readers and writers and the rest can be our characters!

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I hear you Karen! I hate the implication that just because something is fiction, romance, etc, it's not valid. UGH!

Christine said...

Oh, how did I miss this on Sunday? I normally pounce on your posts as they appear.

I do know men who dismiss fiction as 'just stories' and who only read 'fact' books, but I don't think I've ever met a woman who didn't read fiction.

I feel sorry for her.

KatW said...

Here, here - I'm with you girl - well said! And whether a serious point or lighthearted you always manage to make me smile - thank you for that.
Kat Xx

Amanda said...

A curious woman!

I bet she escapes into her TV without saying she'd 'rather be living life than watching made-up ones.'

Karen said...

suzanne - Me neither. Or chocolate. Were we talking about chocolate? Why not?

helen - Me too. I just feel sick if I drink!

marieke - Neither can I. My earliest memories are of wandering around our local library choosing books!

l'aussie - Maybe that's the thing - she's not found the right book yet!

colette - The world would be a much duller place. I'd have to take up jogging or something!

kareng - That's very true - each to their own :o)

adina - Fiction often reflects real life - but with a happy ending. Maybe that's what I like about it!

teka - Thanks for dropping by :o) We can learn a lot from fiction, and if not it is at least entertaining!

queenie - I remember him saying that in an interview and being very surprised. I can't remember what his reason was though.

jan jones - That's a good point. If fiction didn't exist I'd have to think of something else to do all day!

gorilla bananas - It is, but according to her young son they don't have any books in their house at all!! Now that I can't understand.

alis - It does make you wonder if they've had 'boring' books thrust at them at school and it's put them off reading for life. Shame though.

denise - I know what you mean - I get the same reaction when I tell people I don't like the taste of alcohol!

The kitchen WILL be wrestled into submission before Christmas or else I'll - I'll ... aaarrrggghhh!!!

anna - I did try and catch her out by asking whether she goes to the cinema, but she said rather proudly that she hasn't been since whe was a child!

debs - Maybe I should get my friend to sneak some really good books into her house and see if she can resist!

fran - That is a really rather brilliant idea. Where's my notebook ...?

teresa - That's very true. I suppose her own way of escaping is effective enough!

jean - That quote is so true. I did notice she had OK! magazine in her bag, so that's something!

lane - Living in my head would be extremely tedious at the moment, stuffed as it is with kitchen angst. Roll on the end of November. It SHOULD be finished by then!

joanne - Doesn't like reading OR animals?? He's definitely missing out. What about reading about animals?

dumdad - I like that quote. And there have been times when I've preferred reading!

lilys - Aw, but you're so young!! You'll experience the real thing again soon enough :o)

elle - Thanks for popping by :o)

You're right and I hope I didn't come across as being judgemental. I certainly don't consider myself superior to people who don't read, but she was VERY dismissive of people who do!

jenny - I can't either; reading has been a big part of my life for so long I'd feel naked without a book in my hand!

ann - I did ask her if she goes to the cinema, ready to make a point about it being the same thing without words, but she doesn't. My flabber was well and truly gasted!

helen - I agree. It's reassuring to read about things we all have in common :o)

jen - Hi and welcome! Very wise words :o) I believe most of her fulfilment comes from drinking, which is not my favourite thing - I guess she probably finds that just as incomprehensible!

kath - Thanks for reading :o) That's a very good point - without people like that, where would inspiration come from?!

talli - It's a bit of a cop-out. If she doesn't read, how does she KNOW?

christine - Up until now, neither had I now I think about it! Unless we're all drawn to people who are similar to ourselves?

katw - You're welcome! Glad I'm good for something :o)

amanda - That's a good point actually. She was going on about the X-Factor!

Tom Foolery said...

X factor! Holy shit! I hope the kitchen is moving on Ok this week for you. TFx

Karen said...

tommo - It's not. And that's all I'm going to say ... for now :o)

Tam said...

But...but...fiction is for escaping and vicarious experiences and learning and laughing and crying and...I could go on at length, as you know. I expect this friend doesn't listen to music either, because surely that would have the same effect?

I'm not limp with disappointment because of any of the books I've read. They've enriched my life. I wouldn't be a writer without them.

Karen said...

tam - Well said! I find it inexplicable too.

womagwriter said...

I can't imagine life without novels either. But as Elle said, different people like different things. I have a friend who won't go anywhere without her iPod, and life without music is inexplicable to her. Now I like music, but can't stand earplugs, so never use an iPod. I'll happily undertake long train/plane journeys as long as I have a good book, whereas my friend would prefer music over a book any day. We all have our own tastes! Just as well for us writer-types, there are enough people in the world who like reading to give us a market.

I suspect the friend of your friend will never be your close friend, Karen - not enough in common!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame, she is missing out on so much; sometimes we just have to take a back seat from real life and share a fantasy now and then. It doesn't hurt.

CJ xx

Shirley Wells said...

I once gave a talk to a local women's group and a lady came up to me afterwards and said: "I'm 79, I've never read a book in my life and I wouldn't want to. I was taught to do something productive with my time - like darn sheets. I bet you've never darned a sheet in your life..."
I was so taken aback that the great witty comeback deserted me. I so wish I'd asked her why she hadn't been darning her confounded sheets while I was talking.
It takes all sorts I suppose.
Oh, and she was right. I didn't even know you could darn a sheet. :)

Karen said...

womagwriter - That's very true. My mum's forever playing games on her mobile phone believe it or not, which I can't understand! Maybe I could work that into a story ...

crystal jigsaw - Exactly. I've got so much 'real life' going on I appreciate the chance to escape into a good book :o)

shirley wells - Your comment made me laugh. Maybe it was a generational thing that reading was considered a 'waste of time'?

Darning sheets may be more productive, but doesn't sound half as much fun!

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