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!!)