So I was at one of those pay-$15-bucks-to-hear-what-
you-already-know literary industry panels tonight. You know the kind where you’re surrounded by people who only leave the house to go to hear how they can find an agent who will adore their really great book–really, it’s great!–and find them a million-dollar advance? (Hey, I had nothin’ to do on a Monday night and I’m looking for an agen–never mind). And the inevitable questions were asked including: “Why has the world so completely switched from fiction-love to non-fiction-love?”
Answers were offered by very qualified people but still, I wanted to chime in here, if I may. It seems to me that the reasons for this can be somewhat easily observed: we, as a culture, have moved from the joys of being lost in the imaginative realm of fiction just as we have moved increasingly towards being a rational, logic and Spock-driven society, though we don’t know it. By that, I mean that we’ve steadily moved away from emotional experience–or at least the open acknowledgment and seeking of it. I don’t even know if we realize it as individuals. But, being human, we still need and crave emotional, imaginative experiences even when it is not fashionable to say so (even when we have lost our abilities to recognize what is missing). Listen, why else have we swarmed en masse to reality television and to books about harrowing emergence from impossible odds? It’s the visceral experience that draws us again and again. Yet we are not free, somehow, to enjoy the departure from rationality if it is not based in fact. Shame, that. The better questions are: what’s happening to reading, to our culture?
This too shall pass.