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The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's head
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Author:  s1m0n [ Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:56 am ]
Post subject:  The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's head

I'm a lit guy, and a writer. I've always* been both, and over the years I've thought a lot about what makes reading good fiction pleasurable. Wit, irony, the music of a sentence, narrative, and beauty are all delights, but ultimately I think they're lesser delights. To me the major delight is the sheer pleasure of the principle illusion that well-written fiction provides: it seems, for a time, like you are living in someone else's head, seeing the world as they do. Barring telepathy, nothing else shatters the solipsism of being imprisoned in a single skull, and I've had little success at making a go of telepathy. I suppose this also might be the case with other art forms - theatre & cinema, to be sure, but perhaps visual art, were I a more sophisticated viewer. Or maybe visual art's delights are otherwise. I am a sophisticated reader of poetry, but while I find plenty of wit, irony, music and beauty in lyric poetry, I rarely get the same hologram of living another mind. Seamus Heaney, sometimes. Ted Hughes. But it's by nature brief.

But being limited to my own worldview is confining, and I love breaking free of it. I dunno when I learned this trick, but it must have been at a pre-critical thinking age. I grew up in a reading (and reading aloud) family, and without tv. Books were the only game.

On the net there's often a lot of angst about spoilers in books & movies, but these bother me not a bit. Suspense is of very little interest to me. I don't care what happens. I care about how the characters feel about it.

Does this match anyone else's experience of books, or am I unusual?

*, ok mild exaggeration.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

When I read the title I asked myself: Do I really dare enter?

s1m0n wrote:
On the net there's often a lot of angst about spoilers in books & movies, but these bother me not a bit. Suspense is of very little interest to me. I don't care what happens. I care about how the characters feel about it.

Similar here. I don't care about the story; I care about how it's told. As to movies, I encourage hearing the tale: I get to hear someone's storytelling, I get to have my own little inner movie, and then I get to compare it to the real deal. But maybe that's exactly what some people don't like. Me, I don't get it.

s1m0n wrote:
...or am I unusual?

Not for a reader, I should say.

Author:  An Draighean [ Thu Nov 23, 2017 4:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

s1m0n wrote:
Does this match anyone else's experience of books, or am I unusual?


It pretty well matches mine.

One of my older sisters taught me to read when I was four years old (by the simple expedient of reading aloud to me, a lot). I started devouring everything I could get my hands on, from then on.

I discovered that I could share feelings, emotions, and points of view with others, many long dead, by reading histories. I found that I could escape the prison-like drudgery of U.S. public schools, and the long nights of Rocky Mountain winters, by reading fantasy and science fiction. I learned to experience the sublime, by reading poetry, music, and holy writ. I'd like to believe that I largely escaped the shackles and blinders of modern news media and what passes for journalism today.

Reading and critical thinking are some of the hallmarks of true freedom. Not necessarily political freedom either, but the freedom of the mind and of the individual. The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein expressed this aptly for for me when he wrote: "I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do".

Author:  Nanohedron [ Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

An Draighean wrote:
Reading and critical thinking are some of the hallmarks of true freedom.

Yes.

Author:  rorybbellows [ Sat Nov 25, 2017 8:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

I see it as linking in to the collective human imagination. As C S Lewis put it " We read to know we are not alone"

RORY

Author:  Nanohedron [ Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

rorybbellows wrote:
As C S Lewis put it " We read to know we are not alone"

A meaningful point of view, and one I hadn't thought of.

Author:  chas [ Sun Nov 26, 2017 8:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The inexpressible pleasure of living in someone else's h

I’ve always thought of it as a form of it as a form of escapism. I read to be someone else, be someplace else. . .

I’m a very slow reader. I’ve always had a very broad taste, so when I was a kid and reading 2-3 hours a day, it was easy to alternate literary books with SF and fantasy. I’m more tilted to fantasy now, because it’s easier to keep up with an action book when it takes 2-4 weeks to read it. OYOH, I still reread Jane Austen, Sinclair Lewis for their beautiful language, and Ann Radcliffe for the mental pictures she paints.

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