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Thread: Is there any point to fiction?

  1. #16
    Chess Neely's Avatar
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    Yes I'm waiting for a reply from the thread starter.

    Question: Do you intend to carry on with your theory in light of the tons of common sense replies? Or, how have the replies affected your thinking?

    Thanks.

    I remember this time when I was sat in a sandwich shop, reading, waiting for a bacon sandwich (why is it always food?) and I overheard someone comment upon my reading, saying something along the lines that he would be really clever now with all that reading if he only read "proper books" i.e. non-fiction not fiction.

    On the other hand it does get on my nerves a little with this seemingly constant need to justify reading/literature/art. I'm very tempted to reply with random non-sequiturs in future for the hell of it. I must confess I have had a burning desire to reply with something like this for a long time now:


    Example OP:
    What is the point in art? What is the point in reading? Is reading a waste of time? Etc, etc.
    Reply one, Fred Bloggs - No, reading is not a waste of time there is so much that can be learned from reading, history...

    Reply two, Jane Eyre - How can you say that literature is a waste of time? It is good for many reasons, for example learning to read and write...

    Reply three, Dante - (brilliant post that kicks ***)

    Reply four, Donny Osmond - What? What? How can you say that, you troll?...

    I like sausages.

    Reply six, Mia Farrow - Reading is fundamental for the...

    .......................................

    I feel better now.
    Last edited by Neely; 04-05-2012 at 04:59 AM.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

    I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
    Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

  2. #17
    I'm working on a theory...and trying to propose that there's really not actually that much point to fiction. Which is a strange thing for someone who likes to write to do. But the more I get into it, the more it seems kind of pointless.
    There are psychologists who will not agree with you.
    Why fiction is good for you

    It's interesting article and I believe that the metaphor of a flight simulator hits the nail on the head. While I'm reading War and Peace, I imagine that I'm there, in Russia at the beginning of 19th century. I read fiction to experience other worlds, other cultures, even if they no longer exists. I read what writers, often older and wiser than me, thought about humans, the world etc. It's very enjoyable and much more fun than to be continuously anchored to the reality which surrounds me.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ohmyscience View Post
    Side note. When will people stop saying teaching/learning from experience is best. No one does it and it is not true. It embodies a kind of solipsism that neglects the efforts of great thinkers. It also justifies mistakes such as wars and genocides. As stlukes pointed out, wanting the experience is not the same as learning; the value or lesson at the end isn't relevant.
    Indeed.

    All higher animals engage in some kind of teaching of their young - whether it's flying, hunting or whatever. If the young were left to rely on their own "experience", they wouldn't last long.

    The written word is just a rarefication of the same principle: to pass on what we know. The fact that truths are conveyed in a story does not diminish their importance; a story is often the most effective way of conveying them.

    That's not to diminish the less virtuous reasons for reading - entertainment and forgetting all the s*** in the real world. There's a lot of s*** in novels too of course, but at least it's somebody else's problem

    The original poster asks an interesting question - but it is ironic that in suggesting literature is a waste of time, they are implying that debating whether literature is a waste of time is somehow less of a waste of time

  4. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by rubsley View Post
    I'm working on a theory...and trying to propose that there's really not actually that much point to fiction. Which is a strange thing for someone who likes to write to do. But the more I get into it, the more it seems kind of pointless.
    It sounds to me like you're trying to rationalize your attempt to give up writing fiction, and you're looking for validation.

    Looks like you're stuck with it though. LOL

  5. #20
    for the OP, read The Immortal by Borges. He makes exactly the same point.

  6. #21
    creative thinker martunia99's Avatar
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    If fiction books are pointless then watching television or playing your computer is pointless too. Even if the book does not teach you anything, it's fun to read. I also find fiction books are full of characters based on normal people which gives us an inside on every day life. Fiction even if it is as stupid as kids fairytales teaches you lessons and I personally love books with a lot of emotion in them which let's me get my emotions out and cry a little bit. That's why I love fiction and I think it's very important
    the pen is mightier than the sword

  7. #22
    Thanks all for your comments. Reason I haven't gotten back sooner is simply that I haven't been online. All very interesting and about a million things to contemplate...

    First of all, I'm actually trying to address this question for a self-proposed essay that I may do as part of my MA, ironically enough, in Creative Writing. I just feel that personally I may have come to the end of the road with fiction - or broken through into something - and it's kind of fascinating to look into, despite having massive reservations about the idea. And yet...

    ...one thing that stands out from the comments is the notion that bread-makers are good, even if they don't serve any real deep purpose, man - and that got me thinking that maybe I've been looking for too much from fiction. Probably the main reason I get into any sort of reading or movie-watching - apart from distraction and time-filling - is to learn something about life. But probably I'm expecting too much from fiction - just as I would be if I went to my bread-maker with similar expectations.

    Of course, I know that many will argue against that, say that they've learned things about the world, different cultures, the distant past, etc, and there's perhaps something in that. But at the same time I've really started to feel that all we're really getting is one person's made-up perspective on things, and I don't know whether that really tells us the truth about the subject, and therefore how can we learn from it not knowing whether it's true or not? Like someone quote War and Peace - but who's to know whether that was really an accurate reflection of what a person's life was like back then? So that's why I'll always say autobiography or letters or things like that are more where it's at in that regard, flawed though they obviously are as well.

    There was a time when I read a lot of spiritual and inspirational writing. And I don't know if you've read that kind of thing but, sooner or later, you'll always run into some anecdote or parable about a monk who does or says something really cool, and that's supposed to inspire us to be like that ourselves. But what I realised after like a thousand of these stories - people like Osho are particularly fond of them - is that this wisecracking, perfectly-behaved, Mary Sue of a monk "never actually happened" and trying to bend your mind to be like them is just silly. Sure, we can take things from fiction and apply them to "real life" and see what happens - but it's really not the same, not in my eyes.

    Which is, I suppose, the other big point: that one's view of ANYTHING says more about that person than the thing itself. So the fact that I'm feeling this way in my relationship with fiction and that others feel different ways is all just self-definition and reflections of our own minds. I guess what I'm hoping for - given that I'm maybe going to write an essay about this - is that I can take what people write in reply - hopefully including literary quotes, references to past thinkers (thanks for the nod to Borges) - and use that to develop the idea. Not just for the essay, mind, but for own thinking and proposing too. Like, the bread-maker realisation was perfect. You don't get mad at a cat for not producing milk, right?

    What else? I dunno: I guess we've got to do something with our time. Yes, I suppose watching television and playing computer games is "pointless" - or, at least, feels pointless (ie, an unfulfilling use of my time for where I'm currently at) - but then it's better than hitting people with baby seals or burning swans.

    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    What, to take your theory further, is the point of a great many things? What exactly is the meaning of life itself?

    Rather than sitting bored the individual seeks a diversion which brings some degree of pleasure to an otherwise boring experience and you ponder why they would do so?

    Is this not one of the core values of literature... that it is a means to engage in
    "intercourse with spirits", as Kafka put it... to participate in a conversation with others whom we might not otherwise ever meet... even the dead?
    1. Good point!

    2. What I think is that the experience, for example, of reading a newspaper or a trashy novel doesn't bring the reader pleasure, it merely causes to distract them from intercoursing with their own minds, which tends to be a fearful experience. This need for avoidance, I believe, powers a great deal of what we do. It certainly does me, but I think the difference is that I'm somewhat aware of it.

    3. I like that, and if that's your experience then I salute you for it. But a key point is that you talk about "conversing with the dead" - which can only come from reading non-fiction - whereas reading fictional characters is "conversing with the made-up and never-alive."

    Quote Originally Posted by Veho View Post
    How can fiction lack substance?
    Because it's made-up. Or if it contains kernels of truth, how to know where they are? Or why not just put them in non-fiction?

    Quote Originally Posted by ShadowsCool View Post
    What is the point of living if not for the arts or the imagination? Life would become mundane and useless in my opinion.
    Interesting. I can't say I feel that way at all - but there we go again, self-defining. Life as I see it has plenty of point, irrespective of the arts. You feel different. Cool.

    Quote Originally Posted by FranzS View Post
    History books...autobiography...

    Literature and life feed into each other. The one helps us understand the other.

    In one sense, a truly sane mind is a diseased mind: the truth about existence is damaging to one's mental well-being.

    Jesus was a carpenter, not (as far as I know) a literary man. The Hindu sages and the Old Testament prophets managed to get plenty of brilliant insights written down, didn't they?

    Garcia Marquez: "Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it."

    Maybe you're just too much of an extrovert to be a committed reader?

    "Happiness writes white."
    1. Agreed.

    2. Can you explain that? Can you give examples?

    3. In which sense is a truly sane mind a diseased mind? I'm not sure I can agree with that.

    4. But Jesus could read and write, I'm pretty sure, and I think it's telling that he chose not to, as many so-called enlightened people do. If he was what people say he was surely he would have known that his words would be repeated, recorded, mis-translated and misunderstood, and used by various people throughout the ages to do all manner of weird and wonderful thing. Why not just write your life yourself? Why not modern-day saints and sages like Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi and Amma? I know it's a different question - but seems to me like the most illumined human beings don't have much interest in recording words - and therefore perhaps the less illumined, the more interest (no slight intended).

    Not sure how many brilliant insights the Old Testament Prophets got down. Seems like a fairly low strike-rate, though, for shots on goal.

    Hindu sages I'm not super familiar with. Nor Schrodinger. Though I would question how deeply he had penetrated into the mind experientially, if you know what I mean.

    5. Really? Is that true? Or is that just another quote from a name person that sounds smart and wise on first reading but then actually falls apart on closer inspection, as so many of them do? Seems like he's basically saying "life is memory" - do you really feel that's what life is?

    6. Pretty heavy on the introvert scale I think.

    7. Nice quote. :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Question: Do you intend to carry on with your theory in light of the tons of common sense replies? Or, how have the replies affected your thinking?
    See above. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by My2cents View Post
    It sounds to me like you're trying to rationalize your attempt to give up writing fiction, and you're looking for validation.
    Ouch! I think you just won the award. ;-)
    Last edited by rubsley; 04-08-2012 at 05:24 PM.

  8. #23
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Meh, it depends which text, the terms fiction, narrative, novel, or whatever are just means of classification - generally most good texts behave differently from each other, and function on their own terms. It is too difficult to generalize about "Fiction" when there is such a difference between The Tale of Genji and Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

  9. #24
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Rubsley, have you read Don Quixote? I ask because there are some slight parallels between you and the aged knight-errant. You are expecting too much from "fiction" - it is not a guidebook to life. Yes, you find insights into humanity and human existence in many great works of fiction - but it is an art and can guide you no more than a painting or a symphony. It can inspire, and often does, and it can provide perspective ("so that's how prostitutes were viewed in the Middle Ages") - but as preachy as a work of fiction is, it will not give you the secret to life, nor is it meant to.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  10. #25
    Ok, then how about this:

    It keeps me from jumping out of a high-rise window.

  11. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by hawthorns View Post
    Ok, then how about this:

    It keeps me from jumping out of a high-rise window.
    Now that is an excellent reason for anything. :-)

    Although I suppose it does of course seem to support my distraction hypothesis that so much of what we call 'reading' is actually a band-aid for our own mad heads.

    Anyways, I hope you don't jump and carry on reading. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Rubsley, have you read Don Quixote? I ask because there are some slight parallels between you and the aged knight-errant. You are expecting too much from "fiction" - it is not a guidebook to life.
    Right. I'm starting to realise that. Hence the bread-maker epiphany. :-)

  12. #27
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    "Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life." Robert Louis Stevenson.

    "Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity." G.K.Chesterton.

    "Fiction, at the point of development at which it has arrived, demands from the writer a spirit of scrupulous abnegation. The only legitimate basis of creative work lies in the courageous recognition of all the irreconcilable antagonisms that make our life so enigmatic, so burdensome, so fascinating, so dangerous- so full of hope. They exist! And this is the only fundamental truth of fiction." Joseph Conrad.

  13. #28
    Where else can you create heavens and gods and destroy demons and hells but in fiction? Are such creations and destructions important? I like to think so. Whatever empowers can be a good thing for the mind.

  14. #29
    Is there any point to fiction? The actual meaning of this question is hanging in the breeze. It is an invitation to psychoanalyze the person asking. I like the question because I find it deeply thought provoking. Fiction is ideal for this question as would be sculpture or painting. You really do start with emptiness, a blank page, a block of marble, an empty canvas, or a mass of clay. You could be asked what the point is to your fiction you made. You could be asked what you think the point is to fiction made by someone else. Is Moby Dick a story about fishing or so much more? For those who have read the book and compared that to the movies, the answer is yes, Moby Dick very much is a book about fishing, whaling to be specific; lots of stuff that never gets in movies. It is also much more that does get into the movies. My answer comes from my own life experience. In my opinion, I see much more point to fiction than would other people. I believe we are primates, mammals, just another animal even if a clever or interesting one. Love is fiction. Honor is fiction. Many of the best things humans have to guide their behaviors are fictional in nature. Fiction is what sets us apart from the ‘lower’ animals. There is the hidden answer. If you seek to know what darkness is, you will fail. Darkness is fiction. You have to study light. When you don’t have any light, we call it darkness. What is fiction not? All other animals are hyper-realists. They only experience and live in pure mechanical reality. We humans are different. We have these vast social fictional worlds we share that are not really different than children playing house. The point of fiction is us deciding what we will agree is a good human or a bad human. (random example) Once long ago, some humans fiction decided being gay was bad. In modern times we just fiction decided gay is good. When we make social value decisions, we generally expect others to play along and often punish them if they won’t. In your natural mammal state you are naked. We fiction agreed that you should wear clothes in public, at least in many civilizations, then not in others.
    The point of fiction is making ourselves human and less lower animals. We often fail at it. We have as much if not more fiction decision wars on each other than ever before. Fiction is humanity itself.
    Last edited by JamCrackers; 04-11-2012 at 05:25 AM. Reason: typo

  15. #30
    Is there any point to anything?
    http://tyleronyourcouchagain.tumblr.com/

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