Is Fiction Hazardous to Your Health???
Is it better to read your way through life, or to live it? One writer asked this question recently and seemed to find that the answer was that fiction had in some ways ruined her for real life, and that Wuthering Heights in particular had made real life unsatisfactory, second-rate. Well, I have my own opinions about Wuthering Heights (see my intro in the Random House edition, also on my website www.AliceHoffman.com) but I think this is an interesting question.
Do readers – and even more so – do writers – forsake real life in favor of fiction? And is this a bad thing? Or is it a way of turning straw into gold, enhancing experience, making sense out of it or reimagining it?
Certainly, I have spent beautiful summers in locked rooms, basements, towers, whatever was available, reading and then writing. I especially remember a summer when I was writing Turtle Moon on Cape Cod – I had two small children, a real life, glorious weather, and like some bookish vampire, craved that dark basement room.
But, I ask again, is this a bad thing?
As it turns out too much sun is bad for the skin, and real life, well, how much can any sane person take of it?
All I know is that at times of true crisis and grief, books were my only way out, a life raft, a gift. If I missed out at days at the beach to have conversations with fictional characters such Heathcliff and Cathy rather than real people, if I spent my time in fictional towns no one had ever visited before, I’m not so sure I regret it.
It’s summer right now and the weather on the cape is mostly glorious again (with thunder storms today). I’ve been writing all through July, waking at four forty five am. I’m in a small dark room again, but when I open the window I can hear the birds waking. Sure, real life’s out there, but frankly I’d rather hear a story.
PS. One of my fictional characters has written her own little novel called The Heron’s Wife – posted on my website www.AliceHoffman.com --
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