Reading for Pleasure

A friend recently called reading a “fictional dream.” I totally agree. I liken it to the writer casting a spell upon the mind of the reader, which the reader welcomes.

Incongruities or just plain dullness can break the spell. (In science fiction, it’s most often crappy science. In fantasy, it’s often internal inconsistencies.) Then, no matter how good the setup or the storytelling, it’s hard to stay engaged.

Verisimilitude (following the thinking of Karl Popper) is critical at that point, making possible what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” While the suspension takes place in the reader’s mind, it is the responsibility of the writer to maintain the “spell” not waking the reader from the “dream.” J. R. R. Tolkien called it an “enchantment” which “produces a secondary world into which both designer and spectator can enter.” As distinguished from “magic” which “produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World” (from his essay “On Fairy Stories”).

I want to lose myself in the story. I want, for a short time, to be transported to a different time or place and be totally involved in the story.

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis


One thought on “Reading for Pleasure

  1. Yes! I believe the words “fictional dream” were first used by John Gardner in his book about novel writing. I have two shelves of “how to” books on novels and poems. Gardner’s book ON BECOMING A NOVELIST is one of the best. The foreword is by Raymond Carver, the wonderful short story writer. I think the reason why researchers, scientists who try their hand at novels usually fail. The novels are polemics and the characters created to convince or illustrate to the reader of a fixed point of view. I could name a few if I was feeling mean, but I’m not. So I won’t.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Lenore

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