Friday, July 17, 2009

Nymeth on Reading Fantasy

Nymeth, proprietor of Things Mean a Lot, posts about why she reads fantasy. Excerpts:

"Escapism" is a term you hear a lot in connection with fantasy, and with speculative fiction in general. This is something I've never quite been able to understand. I know how the argument goes: we "escape" into another world to get a break from thinking about the problems afflicting our own. That's fine, but what I don't understand is how "escaping" into a fantasy world is any different from escaping into another time, another place, or very simply into another life.

Books of any genre allow us to escape our lives in the sense that they allow us to experience different realities, different ways of living, different problems, different sorrows and joys. And while we're doing that, we momentarily forget our own. But this does not mean we shut our brains off. Quite the opposite -- when we read a good story we are fully engaged intellectually and emotionally, and if the book is a very good one, when we return to our own skins we are a little changed.
Read the whole thing. Nymeth goes on to explain why fantasy isn't inherently simplistic, meaningless or about anything less than universal human experience. I'd add, though, that fantastic narratives or weird tales or any of the slices of the genre pie don't necessarily leave us "a little changed." Sometimes they reknit our view of life more radically than the weightiest philosophy, as children' fantasist N.D. Wilson testifies: "The events and characters in Narnia and Middle Earth shaped my ideals, my dreams, my goals. Kant just annoyed me." Which is a reason not only to read them, but to write them, too.

(Picture: CC 2009 by
mbgrigby; Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds)

5 comments:

B. Nagel said...

Great quote from Wilson! I still don't understand how exactly Story reaches in and touches the receiver, but there's a reason sacred literature includes narratives and not just prescriptive, restrictive, polemicm bone-dry lists of laws.

B. Nagel said...

polemicm = polemic,

Loren Eaton said...

I think studying how narrative and proposition interact and influence one another is a worthy life's work.

Yeah, I love Wilson's quote, too.

Nymeth said...

Thank you for the link, and you and Wilson are of course right - sometimes it's much more than just a little.

Loren Eaton said...

Thanks for writing it, Nymeth. It's a good post!