So, Clishmaclaver was wondering – why do you read?
I read a writing prompt a few years back that asked this very question and piqued my interest. 😉 To paraphrase – do you enjoy losing yourself in different worlds? Escaping reality? Maybe you just appreciate a beautifully crafted sentence? Is it because books inform you about the ways of the world? We all love great storytelling; maybe there’s an author in particular who got you hooked?
I’m not ashamed to admit I read primarily for escapism. I want a holiday from grim reality; I want to lose time in a book, connect with the characters, believe in the narrative, and I really, really want a happy ending. I’m intolerant of cliché but I’ll happily embrace those tropes that further my objective. This, from TV Tropes, sums things up nicely:
The popular preference for a story with “a happy ending” is not, or at least was not, a mere sweet-stuff optimism; it is the remains of the old idea of the triumph of the dragon-slayer, the ultimate apotheosis of the man beloved of heaven.
Specific types of Happy Ending include:
- Happily Ever After – for when just being happy isn’t quite enough
- Happy Ending Override – a subversion of the Happy Ending where it’s undone in the sequel
- Earn Your Happy Ending – for when the Happy Ending comes after much darkness and angst
- Deus ex Machina – when the Happy Ending is too easy
- Esoteric Happy Ending – when the ‘happy’ ending doesn’t sound like one
- Surprisingly Happy Ending – when the characters were expecting something else
John Green, author of ‘The Fault in our Stars,’ YouTube video blogger and educator, reads to feel loved. “Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.”
Neil Gaiman, author of ‘American Gods’, believes our future depends on reading. “Words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading… People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far… The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity.”
Alain de Botton, philosopher, author, TED Speaker & founder of The School of Life, reads to experience a reality simulator. “It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver — because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly. Literature is the greatest reality simulator — a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you can ever directly witness.”
Maya Angelou, the much-loved American author, poet, and civil rights activist, read to orientate herself in the world. “When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”
Photo credit: Medium Writing PromptsE-Portfolio tag: Language and Literacy