I've been thinking a lot lately about that insatiable need for stories. I don't have time for all the stories I want to read, to write. Sometimes, it seems that the crazier the world gets, the more necessary the escape of fiction becomes. I've had non-readers (I'm talking people who don't read anything, which I really can't fathom; how do you NOT read??) tell me they think fiction is harmful, because it isn't real, and because it's all just made up.
After I swallow down my choking anger, I tell them this:
None of us would read fiction if it wasn't completely, painfully real. If it didn't suckerpunch us, make us cry; fill us with warmth, make us laugh. We are reading about people who don't technically exist - and sometimes they possess powers and embark on adventures impossible - but we see ourselves in them. In the world of a fiction novel, we see our best friends, our mothers, fathers, siblings; we see that mysterious loner we always wondered about; the boss who didn't cut us enough slack when we were trying to work and go to school. We see the people who populate our daily lives, and people we know from the World Stage. And through our fictional friends, we wrestle with every sort of horror life can dish out...and every sort of joy.
And here's where fiction is magical: the happy ending. The satisfaction of resolution. We wake up in the mornings, and our TVs, and news feeds are full of horrific tragedies and terrible occurrences. Life is hectic, and sometimes it squeezes the breath out of us. At the end of a long day, when we're tired and sour, those few minutes of reading before bed, that total escapism, can be so important and heartwarming. Because in fiction, we aren't denying reality, merely tweaking it a little, for our emotional benefit. We can cheer for the good guys, we can swoon over the love stories. We can fall asleep a little easier. Any book that makes a reader feel happiness - that's an important book.
It's such a simple thing, an essential one, I think. To fall into a story. Let it enfold and comfort us.
That's what I think, anyway. And I'm a shameless bookworm.