I wonder if the difference in reading styles that I wrote about last night is, at least in part, a genre issue. My friend mostly read literary bestsellers. Whereas I don’t read a lot of that kind of literary fiction. I’m not looking for realism or familiarity in my reading. So I’m not particularly interested in contemporary doorstoppers that are all about the miseries of dysfunctional suburban families (The Corrections, I’m looking at you). And, as a teenager, I shuddered away from problem novels, you know the ones about children whose parents are divorcing, addicted, broke, abusive, or whatever, or about teenagers coping with death, rape, illness, and so on and on. I know that people find comfort in stories about people dealing with issues like those and feel less alone. But I am not one of those people.
I’m a genre reader – I read away from the real, contemporary world and into more or less alien written worlds. It occurs to me that most everything I read involves a setting quite removed from my own life. For example, classic novels as written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, and so on, require the modern reader to engage in just as much interpretation and world-building as a fantasy novel, because the past is another country, one as fantastic and unfamiliar as anything you’ll find in contemporary fantasy or science fiction. Detective fiction, old and new, also relies on a detailed evocation of place for much of its appeal and impact.
I wrote this much of this post last night, and woke up this morning to find that Dinie was thinking similar thoughts about place and the importance of setting. She commented:
I love plot-driven thrillers like Lee Child’s fiction. But I never re-read them because it`s all about the plot and the action and I can’t really place a piece of myself into the stories. On the other hand, the books that I keep and read multiple times tend to be ones set in a world or universe that I can imagine inserting a version of myself into, e.g., LoTR.
Me too. I wonder if this interest in setting, in immersing yourself in fictional worlds, is characteristic of people who read away from themselves rather than towards.