Friday, January 29, 2010

From The Department of Irrelevant Plans

I have an unfortunate pre-sleep habit. Maybe it's my worrying nature, or over-active imagination, or that last cup of tea I drank, but, whatever it is, it plagues me. I often find myself planning intricate contingency plans - "just in case." When I was a child, the plans I developed ranged from the mundane (how I would escape from the house when it caught on fire) to the, hm, excessively heroic (what I would say to Saddam Hussein when I captured him - yes, I was a child during the first Gulf War). In a more recent example, I tossed and turned for forty-five minutes as my brain refused to relinquish consciousness until I had planned out the *entire script* for the toast I would make at my sister's wedding. Mind you, she is not even engaged. I was pretty irritated at my brain for that one.

The latest spawn of the Contingency Planning for Really Unlikely Scenarios Division stemmed from this panicked thought: What if I had to speak at the National Book Fair?? Obviously, the ego and presumption implied by that scenario is quite impressive, and I hope (but doubt) you will believe me when I say that the same ego (or lack thereof) has asked me to prepare for What If I Had to Prevent Pre-Teens From Mocking Me Incessantly on the Metro?

So, mental wheels a-whir in their unstoppable processes, I determined that I would speak (at the National Book Fair, that is, not the Metro, that would be a FAIL) on Why Reading Fiction Makes You a Better Human. Those of you (mostly my father-in-law and that one other guy I bribed) who read this regularly are familiar with my thoughts on this topic. (In brief: the empathetic value of shifting a perspective, the exposure to a broader realm of shared culture, the flexing of imagination, the primitive satisfaction of narrative.) Now, I've recently met a number of people who have told me they don't read any fiction. As a policy. They do not feel it's worth their time. I am astounded. I am appalled. I am wondering if it's possible to convince them that they are withering their little human souls by not reading fiction. Now, this might be a distinctly Washingtonian phenomenon, or perhaps I continue to make the wrong acquaintances (cue: pre-teens on the Metro contingency). But I'm interested in the question nonetheless - can we convince people to read good fiction? (And does it Make You a Better Human? I need to know before I have to make that speech!!)

5 comments:

Gary said...

Wow!!
What a comfort to know I'm not the only one always thinking about contingencies.

Birgitte said...

Yes it makes you a better human for no other reason that you get to copy your favorite writer's styles and hey that's growth, right?

Contingency plans: Have you made the one for what to do when the Mac truck that just changed into your lane ahead of you stops suddenly and you have to choose which way to jerk the wheel to avoid nose-diving his rear bumper which of course, catapults you off the overpass onto the freeway below where another Mac truck is careening toward you....

Bevan Bird said...

I'm glad you feel this way about fiction. My sentiments as well. There are great examples / lessons to be learned from fiction literature. I may be biased because my father is a fiction author and I'm publishing his impressive work. I'll see you in the Twitterverse!

Laya's Blog said...

Your post reminds me of my younger brother-he had the habit of passing on his doomsday predictions on to us. If we happened to travel by train and it would pass through a railway bridge ...he would say what if the bridge broke down?

Rowenna said...

A) I also contrive plans to deal with ridiculous scenarios before falling asleep. So don't worry, it's, um, normal...?

B) Of course fiction makes us better humans...those who don't read it are clearly cretins who cannot be helped by anything but an apocalyptic demise of civilization in which all that was left were books but then what would we do for food and how would we cook it--shoot, looks like it's getting close to bedtime, there goes my brain...

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma