The experience of reading a novel has certain qualities that remind us of the traditional apprehension of mythology. It can be seen as a form of meditation. Readers have to live with a novel for days and even weeks. It projects them into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional realm is not ‘real’ and yet while they are reading it becomes compelling. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book aside. It is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with other lives and sorrows. it teaches compassion, the ability to ‘feel with’ others. And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative. If we allow it to do so, it can change us forever.
For me, that’s also a reason I prefer novels to short fiction; I want to be immersed for longer—and more fully—than even the best short fiction tends to allow.
And now, on to the novelty! I'll be away from the blog for the next week or so, so I've lined up a couple of guest bloggers. Bob and Vince are going to write about other books I've read lately, but haven't blogged about. Enjoy!