July 09, 2020   1:32pm

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Do you have a fiction affliction?


Do you have a fiction affliction?

Peggy Noonan recently wrote in her WSJ column “A Year for the Books” that she once received some offhand advice to “Never feel guilty about reading, it’s what you do to do your job.”

She forecasts (and I agree) that “reading is about to make a big comeback in America … we’re going to be reading more books in the future, not fewer.” And, then, she says: “I spent my youth reading novels, and learning life from them.  Then at some point in my 40s, all I wanted was what was true.  What happened in the war, at the battle, in that important life?  I ask people my age, ‘Do you read mostly nonfiction now?’  They almost always say, ‘Yes.’ Is this connected to age?  Here’s a twist:  Lately I want to turn back to novels again.”

Here, here!

She never talks about why she’s had a fiction affliction.  So I’m here to expound. It’s just possible that for those of us who loved novels, as we grew older, this became associated with guilty pleasure — time away from the things we were supposed to be doing.  If we were going to “spend time” reading, it needed to be to learn something useful and practical — facts that would help make things work better, whether it be our careers, our kids, our relationships, our intellect, our cocktail conversation.

My reading conversion came about when friends asked me to join their book club.  At that first meeting I was floored to discover that they were reading fiction!  Upon being assigned “The Namesake” — what a rich experience that was — I was reminded of what I was missing.  Now, my Kindle (do buy one) does triple-time as I catch minutes here and there to dive into our latest novel selection.  (We did just try some nonfiction; the consensus was that it was much more fun the other way.)

So, yes.  Maybe now’s the time to remember when reading was your ultimate retreat.  Mentally shuttered away, the words wash over and penetrate, taking you to some intriguing place.  And, maybe, just maybe, you learn something — for the heart as well as for the head.  That, after all, is an even more necessary life requirement.

Now I’m in the middle of a new thriller, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson.  I’m curious as to the financial journalist who was, possibly unfairly …

Oh, gosh, gotta go … need to be somewhere and have about 15 minutes left to finish this next chapter…


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