Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why Read Fiction?

A friend complained to me the other day: at bookstores he no longer felt compelled to buy fiction. The reason? He no longer finds value in reading fiction.

Now I am a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction. So naturally this got me thinking. Why *do* I read fiction?

The short answer is because I love stories; have done so forever.

It started a long time ago, at my mother's lap. Like other children I was captivated by narratives of swashbuckling poigambars, beautiful princesses, evil witches and so on.

I had the added benefit of having a great grandmother who was an accomplished storyteller. After dinner the kids gathered around her as she narrated Kissas. Her keen sense of narrative and suspense kept us asking "What happens next" every day. She also added twists and turns, adding "What if?" to my thinking.

Thus for me, reading stories is as much a part of living as is, for example, breathing, loving, drinking lemonade, or enjoying a child's smile.

So much for personal gratification. What about the world we live in - globalized, competitive, capitalistic and connected? Does reading fiction help the individual and/or society to become more competitive?

I really don't have a good answer to that. Years ago, I read somewhere that Italians can design so well because of their passion for the arts. From Michaelangelo to Ferrari, so to speak. Another article had mentioned the lack of global brand names from China as brought about because of the lack of culture in their education (I paraphrase and butcher the reasoning, no doubt, but you get my drift :-) ) So is it possible we haven't seen a Old Spice or a Van Heusen come out of Singapore because Singaporeans read mostly business books?

I don't know, and frankly I don't care. To me, fiction is its own best reward.

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