The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fact or Fiction

        Now to go from a somewhat charged controversial topic like I presented last Thursday to one that is perhaps even more controversial for many of the members of this particular blog community in which I lurk.  It is based on an opinion that some people hold.  I would not be considered to be one who holds this opinion for if I did then I would be living a contradiction.  My question for this week is:

Is Fiction a frivolous escapist waste of time?

          There have been periods of my life when I have read nothing but nonfiction.  At times I will go on a stretch were I read nothing but biographies, histories, travel books, or anything that is real and gives me this sense that I am learning something.  Perhaps I become fixated on my career or current events and binge on reading only things that pertain to whatever my current interest is.  During these spans I smugly consider that my only quest should be for factual knowledge.

          Then something will trigger my desire to read a fiction.  It might be a review, or something I've heard about a book, or just a desire to escape.  I might see a movie that I've really enjoyed and want to read the source material.  Or I might just want to delve into a classic work that I have never read or even one that I read years ago.  Fiction reading is relaxing and it is an escape in most cases.

         But some would argue that reading fiction is just a time-waster.  Okay, I will concede that there might be some fiction that is a waste of my time, but the way I see it is if I had a good time reading something did I waste my time?  If I go to Disneyland and have a good time is that a waste of time?  If I spend a few hours playing golf is that a waste of time?  If I lie on the beach and do nothing is that a waste of time?  I think you get my point here:  If I'm enjoying myself and recharging my body, mind, and soul, then I don't think I'm wasting my time.

       Learning is certainly commendable.  I like to know a lot of facts in order to have interesting conversations and to be able to understand the world around me better.  Reading nonfiction is important.  The advocates of nonfiction only might argue that in order to be in tune with events and the state of one's own being, reality writing is the only type of literature that can bring about true understanding and change.

       The defender of fiction can cite works that had a profound influence on society and the course of history.  Stowe's UNCLE TOM'S CABIN had a great influence on attitudes toward slavery and has been attributed by some as a one of the factors that led to the Civil War.   Sinclair's THE JUNGLE led to investigation and change within the U.S. meat packing industry.  Other renown novels such as ATLAS SHRUGGED, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and 1984 have raised ethical, societal, and politcal issues that have been debated and studied by scholars.  Fiction can have great relevance to society and deemed an instrument of change.

         The human mind works on many levels and dealing only with facts and figures might possibly be a hindrance to thinking with imagination.  Fiction sometimes can illlustrate real life situations with greater clarity than journalistic re-enactments of actual events.  We can recall how Jesus used parables in order to convey his teachings.  Poets and playwrights like Dante and Shakespeare took literature as art to levels of immortality to the extent that even today we can derive sublime messages from their works that non-fiction could probably never achieve.

         I enjoy well written nonfiction, though when it is too dry, technical, or pompous the writing can really turn me off.  But when it is written in an entertaining or engaging manner nonfiction certainly captivates as well as fiction.   And as for fiction, there is an important place in many readers lives for escapist literature.  Seeing as how I'm interested in writing fiction,  it is certainly to my benefit to have lots of fiction readers out there.

         I know that a great many of you are totally pro fiction and feel like I feel about it.  Do you ever feel like you're just frivously passing time with fiction writing?  Would you prefer to be writing nonfiction?  And any of you who do fall into the fiction-is-a-waste-of-time camp, please defend your reasoning on that stance.


  1. Lee... great post ....
    I am a reader of most genres, and I find fiction can be stimulating, exciting, rewarding, hilarious, sad,
    thought provoking, frightening, thrilling, informative, relaxing, escapist, sometimes boring....and as far as I'm concerned life would be less without it....Keep writing it!!

  2. I think I read more non than fiction,but I love love love fiction. And what better way to waste time (and we do waste time- TV, surfing the internet) than to read a good piece of fiction. We all need escape.

  3. Personally the poems I write are all expereiences that I have gone through in my life or events that have taken place, however I do like to read the occasional non fiction book......a way of escaping the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

    A good topic today Lee, got the grey matter thinking.

    Have a good day.

  4. Since fiction often requires research, there's usually a lot of facts and information within the story.

    Fiction also teaches us things that can't be quantified in a non-fiction book. For those who are right-brained or visual learners, seeing something played out in a scene of fiction will mean more. A relationship book will teach us the facts - a GOOD fiction book that focuses on characters will show those relationship behaviors in action.

    I've read a ton of relationship, self-help, success, etc. books and one of the best authors is Og Mandino - and his books are fiction.

    I've written both and believe learning can cross over to fiction, as my fiction books contain the same principles as my non-fiction.

  5. I find fiction or fairy tale can be fun! I'm a fan of Steven Spielberg. Fact is knowledge.

  6. What were those random pictures?

  7. Thanks for the comments so far.
    I like fiction, poetry, and nonficton alike-- it depends on my mood. I also like to write them all.
    L. Diane -- I agree with what you say. I was talking about accuracy on Monday and your point has a lot to do with that topic. Well researched fiction can be almost like nonfiction and we can learn from it just as well. And I have read books that were classified under nonfiction but had such sketchy data to draw upon that in essence they were fictionalized.

  8. Emilee -- Hey sweetie! Got my video camera working now. As far as the photos, what do they mean to you: Fact or Fiction? They are non-fiction in the sense that they are actual photographs. But they are random and could symbolize something else or illustrate a story or a poem. What do they mean to you?

  9. rLEE-b ~
    Perhaps my comment will surprise you since you are already aware that I am LOUDLY(!) in the pro-nonfiction camp. But the truth of the matter is that I am not an extremist, and I have always argued that extremism in anything - even an otherwise positive pursuit - often results in negativity.

    So, I most emphatically do not condemn the reading of fiction. I support it for all of the reasons you stated quite well in your Blog Bit.

    I did 99% of my classic fiction reading in my teens and early twenties, and some of those ideas and mental images have stayed with me. I would be a less wealthy person today had I never read 'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn' and 'The Grapes Of Wrath' and 'To Kill A Mockingbird', etc. The ingenious way that Mark Twain put across ideas about societal conditioning, race relations and humanity in chapters 16 and 31 of 'Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn' was simply off-the-charts brilliant and, for my money, the greatest piece of fiction writing EVER penned.

    However... (you knew there was a "however" a-comin', didn't ya?)... I also believe that there is no element of the human condition and no illustration of "the inarticulate speech of the heart" that can't be equally found, and often more impressively found, in nonfiction works. Usually, the message is even more powerful because the reader knows that which is being expressed comes directly from reality and not the imagination of a fiction-writer's mind.

    There is nothing wrong with reading fiction and I view it as a form of entertainment in the same sort of way that I'll watch a movie (usually "fiction") to temporarily "get away from my reality." But a movie represents just a 90 to 120 minute investment of my time, whereas a book of fiction generally demands much more.

    In my opinion, the reading of fiction should be the exception and not the rule. In a country that is as messed up as ours is, in a world that is as jacked up as "this world" is, I believe that it is almost a civic responsibility to read plenty of nonfiction - not exclusively nonfiction, mind you, but predominantly.

    I wouldn't deny anyone their occasional escapist fiction, but when I think about how little I really knew about the people and the world around me back when I was reading mostly fiction in my teens and twenties, it makes me realize just how much more valuable high quality nonfiction works are.

    And when I see most Americans - not teenagers and twenty-somethings, but supposedly wise and mature adults - spending all of their time reading Dan Brown nonsense (that is when they aren't glued to their television sets), I find it depressing and irritating.

    Here is the Republic that our Founding Fathers fought for crumbling down around us and the citizens who should be waking up to the reasons, educating themselves and others, and working to restore our liberties are walking around with their noses in a useless Harry Potter book.

    Yeah, Brother, everything in moderation, but maybe we as Americans should be tending to business a little more and entertaining ourselves a little less. That is if we want our civilization to continue providing us with the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to read good fiction.

    Everything I'm ranting about can be found in a great work of "NONFICTION" titled 'Brave New World.'

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  10. I always have felt I should be reading biography, history in order to learn more. However, for the past two years I have been reading nonfiction with occasional creeping in of quilt. My favorite authors are Beverly Lewis and other Amish lifestyle authors, Nicholas Sparks, Robin Cook and others. I am now reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told through the eyes and soul of a dog. His master is a race car driver. It is really making me think a lot about life. Lee: keep up the good work. I am starting to read your daily blog after breakfast. I am also trying to catch up with reading all your past blogs and find them thought provoking. BTW Lee may be wondering about the name LadyAnnWV for your Aunt Nancy. It is my pen name for my paintings. The name Lady Ann was given to me by a special friend.

  11. Mr McMe:
    You may have suspected as much, but I wrote this piece primarily with you in mind and as hoped you came thru with a wonderful comment.

    You make some very good points with which I agree, but I do think fiction can stretch the limits of one's mind kind of like going to a brain gym.

    All "non-fiction" is not necessarily factual either. Often it is pure propaganda or sensationalism. I've started reading plenty of non-fiction that I've had to toss aside as a waste of my time.

    While some fiction can be quite prescient and relevant to think about like the BRAVE NEW WORLD example you gave. Or it can be illustrative in the guise of entertainment like you HUCK FINN example (my favorite fiction).

    I certainly appreciate your concern about the state of our nation, but a good education should be balanced between fact & fiction, art & science, etc.
    The worst time waster is too much TV--- and besides the fiction stuff I would include news, sports, music, etc.

    Some very good points you have made.

  12. Lady Ann, or to me, Aunt Nancy:

    Thanks so much for the encouragement that you have been giving me via your emails. Now that you have set up your Google account you can start writing your own blog. I'm sure you could have plenty to talk about, especially some of your genealogical knowledge.
    I've noticed that the Amish literature seems to be very popular. I've run across several blog sites that specialize in it. The Garth Stein book sounds interesting. That's an example how an author can express thoughtful concepts through fiction.
    Hope I can see some of your paintings one day--maybe you can email some pictures of them.


  13. I love to read fiction. I can escape from a dreary, rainy afternoon (or take a nap on the other hand). I love to read fiction while on a nice beach in the warm sun. My husband loves non-fiction so we can combine the best of both worlds in our conversations!

  14. rLEE-b ~
    Yes, I suspected that some of my previous comments were the inspiration behind this Blog Bit.

    And I quite agree with you: just as there is good and poor fiction, there is good and poor nonfiction. But in order to know the difference, we must read them.

    I could name a number of really bad nonfiction titles I have read (or at least partially read - I'm usually smart enough to cut my losses at a certain point). But I could name far more good nonfiction than bad nonfiction which has passed before my eyes.

    I generally have a pretty solid idea beforehand whether or not the nonfiction I'm about to read will be worthy of my time based on how much I've come to trust those who have recommended it to me. I get taken for a ride occasionally but not often. And I do the appropriate fact-checking before I buy hook, line and sinker what it is the writer is selling.

    >>[a good education should be balanced between fact & fiction, art & science, etc.]<<

    I support them all, but I would not use that word "balanced" in a literal sense. I believe we should ingest more fact than fiction and more science than art. But agreed, the well-educated individual must include all of the aforementioned ingredients in their "diet". After a heaping portion of Thoreau, I like a little Cheech Y Chong for dessert. (And a glass of Grand Marnier once in awhile is a good thing, too ;o)

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to rant on your Blog.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  15. Does fiction and science fiction
    movies count?

    It's nice to see you are getting more Bird Watchers. Soon you'll be passing up
    The Old Geezer.

    Keep up the good work Lee,


  16. I really thought I’d write either non-fiction articles or books about my travels and living in different countries. However, I found I really enjoyed making up stuff and creating characters. I don’t feel that anything that brings someone enjoyment is a waste of time, that includes writing or reading fiction.

  17. Lee,
    I see in you another lover of words, and I wholly agree that reading is a wonderful pastime. I have read in my lifetime of almost 77 years a great many books, magazine articles, both fiction and non-fiction. I love to read. I lose myself in a book so intently that if my husband wishes me to hear what he says to me, as I read, then he must speak my name first. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I enjoy writing tremendously, but have never been published except for my blog.
    I also enjoyed reading about your dad. Best regards to you. Ruby

  18. People love stories. People love to be entertained. We all need to escape from the realities of life. For those who say reading fiction is a waste of time, so is watching TV, so is watching football. Should all movies be documentaries.

    No, fiction is terrific. There is nothing like a well told tale, even those based purely in fantasy (ie Harry Potter). Good fiction is a delight to the soul.

    Non fiction is great too, sometimes the facts just can't be imagined.

    Both Fiction and non-Fiction are worth reading, and are both enjoyable.

    Most importantly, is the writer's style engaging. Does the writer grab and hold your attention. Thats what matters most to me


  19. Cheryl -- Have you heard that generally speaking women prefer fiction while men prefer nonfiction? Seems like I raad that somewhere.

    Stephen -- glad to get your comments cause you really know how to weigh in. I still have an unopened bottle of Grand Marnier here.

    Ron -- sure movies can count since a lot of people watch movies instead of read.

    Jane --Reading fiction keeps the brain more active so it's not only fun it's mental exercise.

    Grammy -- thanks for visiting me as well and thanks for your kind words

    Sig -- you said it well and I agree with what you say about this.

  20. Stephen,

    Yes, I do agree, everything in moderation. Tis true with everything, including my beloved books!

    I would like to suggest that fiction and non-fiction are not always clear-cut categories as well. Yes, there are books about biology that we can say are pretty factual, and then there is Harry Potter. However, who says that I can't escape by reading a book about worm composting? I've actually fallen gently to sleep dreaming about the fun I could have with worms... Along those lines, I also believe that non-fiction can be full of poetry and prose, and that non-fiction does not always mean factual or informative. There is PLENTY of bad non-fiction out there that is misinforming our nation. So, yeah, moderation is key on both sides, fiction and non-fiction! I read a healthy balance of both and am careful of what I fill my mind with. That's why I love suggestions for good books and love to give them!

  21. Hello, SOCK MONKEY ~

    >>[I would like to suggest that fiction and non-fiction are not always clear-cut categories as well.]<<

    I agree. And that is why I referred to the book 'Brave New World' as "NONFICTION" in the first comment I posted here.

    >>[I've actually fallen gently to sleep dreaming about the fun I could have with worms...]<<

    And here I've always assumed that I was the weirdest person visiting Arlee Bird's Blog. :o) Ha!

    >>[Along those lines, I also believe that non-fiction can be full of poetry and prose]<<

    The Holy Bible proves your point!

    >>[There is PLENTY of bad non-fiction out there that is misinforming our nation.]<<

    That is entirely and sadly true! I could name some right off the top of my head. But reading any nonfiction will at least get the thinking and debating started. As someone attempts to confirm the information they've read by reading "the other side of the argument", they will come to find either the original ideas proven or contradicted. This process, if followed objectively, will ultimately lead the reader to the truth.

    >>[That's why I love suggestions for good books and love to give them!]<<

    Are you asking me to suggest a book to you, or do you wish to suggest one to me? Or am I reading too much into that final sentence?

    rLEE-b, Br'er Marc has left a comment for you on the most recent installment of my 'Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends' Blog.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.