Saturday, April 24, 2010


I've been musing a lot lately, though still not reading very much. After The Man of Property I was all set to blaze through the rest of the Forsyte Saga, but of course that didn't happen and now it's due back at the library. Instead, I've started reading a nonfiction book called The Victorian Visitors, by Rupert Christiansen. It's basically about various foreign personalities who visited London in the 19th century, and how they interacted with Victorian British culture. I'll have more to say about it when I've finished it.

I'm thinking about reading as escapism. Lately, it's nonfiction that does the best job of keeping my attention. Maybe the fiction I'm reading just isn't exciting enough. But given the amount of nonfiction reading I have to do for classes this quarter, it seems odd that I would choose more nonfiction for my pleasure reading.

I don't know if this has anything to do with this trend in my reading, but I wonder if in some ways nonfiction actually makes better escapism than fiction. In fiction, we get a more or less complete picture of characters. We know what they did, and more importantly, why they did it. In fiction, however, we have a fair chunk of facts, but little background knowledge, mere guesses at what influences and motives went into events. Nonfiction asks us to think about what happened. Fiction asks us to think about why it happened; it shoes us people's internal workings, and in that way probably makes us more aware of our own. And that probably takes more energy than just reading the tangible history and wondering vaguely what else was there.

I nearly always speed through nonfiction. I don't know why, really. I just always find something in it to fascinate me.

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