Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fiction is Food for the Noodle

I love books. It's actually something stronger than love; a deep, desperate need for the written word. I'm not that taken with non-fiction; it is when I have in my arms the poetic prose that is a novel that I become alive. 
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I find myself now rereading a book that I have previously devoured oh, say, five times. And yet I find myself postponing night-night, alternatively chuckling and being breathless with anticipation, despite my familiarity with the plot.  

And yet other perks besides entertainment arises from non-fiction fascination. 
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.  
The parts of our brains involving the senses begin to perk up when reading about smells, descriptive objects, and movements.
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated . . . Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings
And by the fact that we experience that which others' experience, we become more kind. 
It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests . . . individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels . . . a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television.
Maybe if children were read books more they would be nicer to others . . ?
Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

19 comments:

FrumGeek said...

I'm like that when it comes to comic books :D
(Though the fiction novel bug does hit me about twice a year on average, where for a period of month or two I'm devouring any fiction novel I can get my hands on.

Wondering Minds said...

Have you read "Extremely Loud, and Incredibly Close"?

rosesarered said...

From the picture, it looks like you love Arabic books :) but I bet that's one kind of book you don't devour. Unless you're multilingual?

Princess Lea said...

FG: Comic books don't always do it for me. Unless it's Tintin.

WM: I have weird policies when it comes to my novels. I prefer historical fiction, providing it takes place before 1900. I don't do the Depression or World Wars. And NO WAY am I doing 9/11!

For some odd reason I find the Black Death less irritating.

RAR: I think if one squints it looks more like English script. I am terrible with languages (including Hebrew).

Garnel Ironheart said...

Books are important because they make you think. You have to remember characters and events, you have to concentrate for long periods of time to get through complicated scenes, you have to use your imagination to see the events in your head. No movie can beat the book because your brain is limitless.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks? (I'm sure you've read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, based on your previous post of a few days ago.)

Sparrow said...

DC or Marvel? And what about Sandman?

FrumGeek said...

I'm mostly a DC guy, but I absolutely hate the reboot, and mostly stick with early 90's to late 00's anyways. I do like some Marvel comics, especially the Ultimate comics. Never was a fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I do like the JSA one though.

Princess Lea said...

GI: True. I'm currently reading "Game of Thrones," and all that political intrigue is keeping my brain humming.

Anon: Yes, I read the Doomsday Book. Miserable, big time. Everyone dying in both time zones, both the past and the future. Shiver.

But yeah, for some odd reason I'm kinda into the Black Death. I'll give Geraldine a whirl. Thanks.

Sparrow, FG: Batman is my favorite. I have "Year One" and "The Dark Knight Returns." Both are pretty awesome. I do confess to owning most of "Hellboy" as well, even though he pretty much just hits everything and then they spontaneously combust.

FrumGeek said...

While I do love Batman (you should read Batman: Hush, btw), my favorite graphic novels I'd have to say are Superman: Secret Identity and Superman: Red Son. You should definitely check them out. Heck, buy 'em! They're that good.

FrumGeek said...

I wanted to email you, but I don't have your email, so here it is: I'd love to see you write a post on what you think of reading 'prust' books with inappropriate sexual content, such as Fifty Shades of Grey or Game of Thrones. (Neither of which I read, though I've been tempted to read 'Thrones'. I did read 'Harry Potter', however, despite my yeshivah having banned it for having "magic" and "we've heard there's a part in the book where a boy and girl are in the bathroom together" (I kid you not!!!) :P )

Princess Lea said...

Sorry, but it would not be post I would write anytime soon.

Everyone has their gauge for what they consider "acceptable." If someone doesn't want to read them, fine. If they do, fine.

Although, the main focus of G of T is not the "prust" part; it is incidental. I have no interest in "50 Shades of Gray" since it is completely S&M and low self-esteem. Not my speed at all.

FrumGeek said...

Ah. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable by asking.

And yeah, I know Game of Thrones' sex scenes are incidental and not the focus. If it were the focus, I wouldn't be interested in reading it.

Sparrow said...

The only part of DC's reboot I've enjoyed has been that Bruce Wayne is Batman again. Besides that? Meh.
The comics you're both mentioning are ones I like because of the way they play with the hero you know and bring something new out.
I still have a soft spot for Green Arrow and the Black Canary. At the moment, I'm about to hit up my library and check some out again.
PL: explosions are awesome!
My favorite is the series of Sandman. FG, what about that rubbed you the wrong way?

Princess Lea said...

Sparrow: Boom! Love 'em!

FrumGeek said...

Oh, I hate the reboot! I'm still in total denial, and have no intention of reading any of it. I mean, they changed Nightwing's costume (granted, Dick was Batman at the time, but still, it was a stupid change), made Babs into Batgirl again (and I prefer her as Oracle), changed Captain Marvel's name to Shazam (Really!?! How does he introduce himself without transforming!?!), completely deleted Wally West, my favorite Flash, not to mention numerous other stuff I'm not happy about. So I'm sticking with my old trades and back issues, thank you very much!

And explosions ARE awesome. Btw, PL, you'd probably like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. It's heavy on mindless fighting, light on plot. Very Michael Bay. Fun stuff!

Princess Lea said...

I like some explosions, but not at the expense of the plot. Give me Christopher Nolan of comic books.

FrumGeek said...

Then might I reccomend ultimates and ultimates 2? And of course, watchmen, though I bet you read that already. (not sure how I feel about the prequel though)

Princess Lea said...

I wasn't aware there was a "Watchmen" prequel. But I don't think that book needed additives.