Magic in Stories: Revisited

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There is magic in stories; there is magic in writing. Magic is the transmutation of objects or the manipulation of the world in ways that move outside the realm of science. Whether or not magic is real in the sense of the here and now world is not the point; magic is a metaphor for fiction. Stephen King says, “books are a uniquely portable magic” (104). This magic is in the words, in their transmitting from the writer to the reader other worlds and ideas. In writing fiction, writers create a world that was not there; even so-called realistic, literary writers create an alternate world that readers inhabit when they read the book. The writers and the readers, in a mystical incantation, create another reality, one that can be so strong sometimes that readers can be moved to tears or laughter or sadness or joy or grief or sorrow or despair or hope. Readers come to care about the characters and feel empathy as if they were real. That is a kind of magic.

Neil Gaiman, in his introduction to Ray Bradbury’s  60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451, speaks to the power of the written word and stories: “Ideas—written ideas—are special. They are the way we our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over” (xvi). It is through the creation of artificial worlds, no matter how speculative or fantastic, that we experience our world in more intensity and with deeper clarity than we had before. This act of magic is what we share as writers and readers. I am honored to be a mere apprentice in the magic of writing novels.

Works Cited

Gaiman, Neil. “Introduction.” Ray Bradbury. 60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.

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Benefits of Reading: Revisited

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I believe this topic to be important, so I wish to revisit it again.

I have previously written about the happiness of reading, a pleasure I hope everyone, or at least, most people experience. As I wrote before, I consider reading to be one of the main joys of life.  Reading is one of the most essential and, at the same time, the most sublime of pleasures.  Reading can take us places we have never been, tell us stories we have not known, and let us experience the lives of many other people.

In addition to the pleasures of reading, I also want to consider the benefits of reading. I think the first, and perhaps most obvious, value is that of education. Regardless of where the reading is done, or if it is for class or for self, all reading informs the reader in some way. As a Professor of English Literature, I teach many books in my courses at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College–and for me, this is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life, to share books and explore them with students.

While there are a myriad of ways to learn in life, reading still stands out as the primary, and most efficient, way of gaining information. (I am not in any way discounting the importance of learning through experience.) Readers can learn about areas of study that exist far outside of their particular areas of understanding or expertise. For example, I am a student of English literature, but I love reading books about quantum mechanics and the extraordinarily esoteric world of String Theory. I do not understand these ideas the way a physicist would, but I can still appreciate the ideas from books aimed at intelligent, non-specialist readers. Such reading allows the book lover to explore an almost unlimited range of ideas.

In addition to education, I think there is a second and equally important value to reading. I have read numerous articles recently about studies suggesting that people, who read, especially fiction, develop more empathy than those who do not read (Chiaet). The overall point of the results of this study, as well as others, is that people who read fiction tend to learn to identify with other human beings and their problems. This is what many of our parents taught to us when they said that we needed to learn to walk in the shoes of other people. It is the basic idea of trying to understand how other people think and feel. Even without these scientific studies, I would assert that fiction helps us to develop empathy.

What do you think about this? Do any of you have other suggestions about the benefits of reading? I would enjoy seeing your ideas.

Works Cited

Chiaet, Julianne. “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.” Scientific
American.Com. October 4, 2013. Web.

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Quotations on Service to Others

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

                                                                       Mahatma Gandhi

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“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

                                                                        Barack Obama

 

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“Life is for service.”

                                                                        Fred Rogers

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“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

                                                                        John F. Kennedy

Quotations on Reading

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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

                                                                   Frederick Douglass

 

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“Feelings, too, are facts. Emotion is a fact. Human experience is a fact. It is often possible to gain more real insight into human beings and their motivation by reading great fiction than by personal acquaintance.”

                                                                  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

                                                                  Ray Bradbury

Thank You to Readers!

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I want to say thank you to all the people who read! As a person who loves to read, I think that reading is crucial to society and one of the great joys of life.  It gives us a chance to walk in other people’s shoes, to experience what they do, and to expand our experience of the world.

As a writer, I also want to say thank you to readers, because without readers, writing,  books, and literature do not exist. The act of reading is a collaboration between the creators of the words of books and the readers who experience and interpret them.

So, to all who read, thank you very much!

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Quotations on Writing

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“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

                                                                                 Ray Bradbury

 

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“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”

                                                                                 Tim O’Brien

 

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

                                                                                Stephen King

 

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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The book trailer:

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My radio interview:

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Quotations From Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir in Books

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I have been reading an extraordinary memoir Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi. In this wonderful book, Nafisi writes about her experience as a Professor of English Literature in Iran and the women who were her students and whom she taught in secret. Her writing is honest, compelling, and a text that all teachers and professors should read. It is an educational inspiration. I give this excellent book a complete recommendation.

For this post, I want to highlight a few quotations from the book:

“what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth.” (3)

“Don’t go chasing after the grand theme, the idea, I told my students, as if it is separate from the story itself. The idea or ideas behind the story must come to you through the experience of the novel and not as something tacked on to it.” (109)

“A novel is not an allegory, I said, as the period was about to come to the end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don’t enter that world, hold your breathe with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won’t be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. That is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience.” (111)

 

Works Cited

Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. Random House. New York.

2004.