by Peggy Bechko
Or is it dead?
When you speak to people do they admit to not having read a book from cover to cover in years? How about you? Oh, we read a lot. Things like tweets and Facebook posts, bits and pieces, here and there. But are we diving into story? And does it matter?
Yes, yes it does. Truly there would be something missing, a hole in our lives, if we all just decided not to read stories any more. Stories give us so much more than just the tale we read. It provides a sense of narrative and even puts our own lives into a kind of perspective wherein we realize that our own lives are stories, long narratives that extend from the past into the future creating an arc to our narrative that is much broader than a few witty (or annoying) tweets on Twitter.
On my Twitter profile I say, “fiction entertains and enlightens”, and it does. Think about the enlighten part. We learn lessons from stories. We absorb how relationships work. We take the long view, understanding that there is much more to our lives than the latest scandal or the latest viral video. And all of this plays into our lives, our community, our nation.
Nonetheless, there are an awful lot of people who don’t read. People like my father-in-law who I think never read a book in his life. People like some neighbors who get the newspaper every day and never read it. People a whole lot more concerned with reading email than a good book. And, additionally, let’s face it, aside from the desire to read we need the time and these days our lives are filled with demands, some we can control, some we can’t.
Can the email wait? Do you really need to watch twenty short videos? Is it absolutely necessary to visit social media sites many times in a day or even in an hour?
Ponder this. This year’s blockbuster movie (you knew I had to get around to this, didn’t you?) Jurassic World (boy wouldn’t we all love a piece of that one) is actually a spin-off from Michael Crichton’s novels Jurassic Park and Lost World (as were the Jurassic Park movies). Heck, we even have philosophers analyzing Crichton’s novels.
Lots of other books have spawned movies as well. You remember, Gone With the Wind, Ender’s Game, The Godfather, Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Marvel super heroes from comics and so many more. So many, in fact, that you may have forgotten which books spawned which movies or even that a movie you loved was actually based on a book.
That’s not to say there aren’t lots and lots of movie scripts that are spectacular on their own. A whole bunch of those were conversely turned into novels to accompany the movie. A movie script is a blueprint. The tough part about a script as opposed to a novel is we don’t know what the characters are thinking or planning except by their actions and perhaps dialog. There is an intertwining here, a symbiotic relationship between novels and scripts. It’s all storytelling, and if done well, breathtaking.
So back to the book. We need to keep it alive. When even the most dedicated book nerd has a hard time finding time to read it’s a bad sign. But it’s never all bleak. It’s never too late to carve out some time to spend reading, immersing yourself in a world not of your creation but which speaks to you, grips you, and gives you much more than you give in your time spent reading.
No matter what kind of writer you are, grab a book and enjoy the story. It really will fill a hole.