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LoBagola

Thoughts on reading fiction inspired by Peikoff's lecture

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I posted this in a student's lounge for a writing course I'm currently enrolled in. I wanted to share it because (1) it was inspired by Peikoff's lecture, the survival value of great (thought philosophically false) art, (2) there are some posters here who's feedback I'd love, (3) reading Ayn Rand has inspired me to do and be so much more than I once was. After listening to that lecture I've been away studying and trying to make myself less floating, philosophically speaking. 

 

 

What does reading fiction offer you? What do you think it can offer?

 

I get more than just enjoyment out of a novel. While I don’t think education is the primary purpose of a novel, I don’t think it’s coincidental either. Some stories show me people I don’t normally meet and stir me up to question myself and my relationships. Sometimes they show me people I do meet, or at least isolated aspects of people that I meet, and then I find myself striving to think over some particular mannerism or action, that on its own is totally random, but viewed in context of the person’s overall character, should have some meaning and is not to be overlooked. The example I’ve heard and like is the wife who takes out the trash. Wives don’t seem to spend much of their time taking out the trash in stories. And yet, in life, they do it every day. But a book is focusing on what’s important about the person, their thoughts and actions that have meaning. Some books relate everything to the theme. Nothing is coincidence. It’s an art to do that. Imagine the poor soul who lives with his beautiful wife and forgets the good, the amazing and the special, only to become acutely aware of her daily task of trash disposal. I think reading can help reorientate our focus, for better, by leaning a little on the authors artistic skill. The walking sticks range from odd, lyrical and violent (Burgess), to dirty, drunk and raging (a la Dostoevsky), to sharp, radical and scientific (Rand) to everything else; every one of them gives us a chance to lean on and walk, exploring the world, with a different perspective. Isn’t that amazing? Just observe yourself in any situation—where, and to what, do your thoughts go? Any book is similarly wrapped in that thought-stuff and emotional perspective you feel around you all day, but can’t really break down into small analysable bits, and we literally get to jump into the mind of another when we read!  

 

I’m not done yet talking about the educational value. There’s style and expression, too. I find, and I don’t know why yet, sometimes I’ll mentally latch on and become addicted to a certain author’s way of writing. He or she might not even be writing about a topic I’m particular excited about, but I’ll become addicted to their phrasing. I’ll write down phrases and sentences for later review. There’s something beautiful in a way they’ve expressed something I’ve felt or thought before, and here they are, giving to me words (so cheaply!) to something that otherwise may have taken me years to give form to. I take it and eat it all up, without manners. A lion is made up of the lambs he has digested. Heard that? I’ve often been so impressed with an author’s ability to dress up his thoughts that I start eating the same things that the characters in his book eat—a pea soup phase in my life because of London’s Martin Eden, eggs and toast with jam because of Burgess’s Clockwork Orange—secretly hoping to be mentally closer to the author.

 

There’s benefit beyond just expression though, and that’s thought. When you take something as fleeting as a feeling and give it shape you’re doing the equivalent of painting and preserving a mental picture for future inspection and viewing (or expression). You can always refer back to it as a witness or judge, build on it with new linking chains of thought, and also correct yourself with it.

 

There’s more, but I’m all over the place right now and my shoulder’s aching and I feel that I want to talk about inspiration, which is perhaps the primary purpose of a book. Good stories can inspire and fuel you. They can feed you when you’re starving. They don’t even need happy endings to do it. This is rare, but it’s a type of pick-me-up better than any best friend, motivational speaker or football star can give. It’s the type of pick-me-up relaunching you through life like a fiery rocket burning everything up in its path. Hooray to books and reading and fiction and writing! How exciting is all of this? 

Edited by LoBagola

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