News flash: A compelling novel can magically transport you to another world.
Apparently this lifelong reader needed that reminder this past weekend. I’ve been feeling creatively underpowered, as I’ve written, but I’ve also been physically unwell and busier than usual at my day job. So this weekend I traveled to a dystopian future world called Panem. Fans of the Suzanne Collins trilogy will understand that this meant I read the three Hunger Games books.
Kudos to Hollywood for inspiring me–I had seen Catching Fire on Imax a week earlier and the story hadn’t left me–so I read the first book on Saturday and the second two on Sunday. My family just moved around me as I sat and read, like they were avoiding a south-going zax.
I spent my childhood buried in fantasy and science fiction novels. But as an adult I’ve migrated more into nonfiction. For the two years in my MFA program I read almost exclusively creative nonfiction, namely biographies and memoirs. My Goodreads account reflects the fact that I have continued that pattern following my July graduation. I now see two flaws in that approach:
- It is much harder for me to read for pleasure post-MFA: I now feel I have a reading superpower. I imagine that an architect must walk through a building and feel she has X-ray vision that penetrates the drywall to see the entire structural support system. I experience something similar when I read now; I am constantly seeing what the author is doing to advance narrative lines, character arcs, etc. But it can take some of the fun out of reading, turning it almost into some kind of clinical exam.
- It is harder to fully escape our present world with nonfiction: I incorporate tools of the fiction writer in writing creative nonfiction, but ultimately what I write–what any nonfiction writer should write–is fact. (See my Freshly Pressed post on “truthiness” for more on this subject.) Collins has created a fascinating setting in Panem–a dystopian future world on par with the greats of literature–and because she is bound only by her imagination, she can more easily transport the reader far from the tedium of reality.
If you want to know my thoughts on the three books, you can read my Goodreads reviews. I fear I had a hard time completely turning off that clinical eye that I mention in #1 above. I also, perhaps unfairly, kept comparing the books to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, one of the best works of fantasy ever written. But what I will say is that the books found me at a time when I needed them. It was a reminder to me of how fiction writers make our world more livable, even when they are writing about worlds in which we would not want to live. So thank you Suzanne Collins, and all fiction writers.
Do you write fiction? Do you too find yourself longing to escape into another writer’s world?
On a final note, I’d like to welcome the new subscribers I’ve picked up in the last week since my post “Creativity and the Aging Brain” was featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed. This is the second time this year I have been selected for that honor. The timing was fantastic; I needed a little positive reinforcement. And it’s always good to have more readers, particularly since what drives The Artist’s Road is the conversation occurring below the posts. Cheers!