An old book I once read asked the question, "why do people read fiction?" Then, as today, the prominent answer is for the sake of escapism to a better world. But today, just as back then, there is something strangely unsatisfying and shortsighted with that answer. In most of the reading groups I've been in if somebody reviewed a book saying "I thought I would never feel joy again by the time I finished it" then we would all feel compelled to pick it up! And if we didn't feel like curling up and crying after a binging session we'd feel cheated. Some of the most beloved stories in history are absolutely heart wrenching. People crave exploration and connection. Fiction offers a way to explore a world that we don't have prior knowledge of, and the stories within give us people who we can empathize with. When they are sad we can feel sad with them and when they succeed we can take part in their joy. But the author had a point that I have found more compelling as streaming services and binge TV have become dominant. Stories end. After the most devastating loss a person has when they feel like they'll never feel anything but sorrow again, there still comes a time when they'll start to feel hunger, or a need to go to the bathroom, or simple fatigue, and the realities of their body and their real life will overpower whatever devastation they have, and whatever residual pain they have is not relevant to the stories of people they love. In a story everything may culminate towards one disastrous conclusion, so that even the framing device that the entire world is understood through comes to focus on that point, until finally it ends, and with the end of the story's driving emotional forces the entire universe ends.
When you get down to it almost all stories are emotional manipulation. You are supposed to feel good or feel bad or at the very least feel invested in something that is not even real. There is, however, an understanding that this manipulation serves a purpose. This purpose exists across disciplines and is what many of us come to understand as "art". Both this purpose and the concept of "art" are vague, difficult to define phenomenon of emotional attachment to some representation. Black ink splotches on paper that makes you cry yourself to sleep, a combination of sound chords that make you feel and think things you can't otherwise, a game that makes your heart palpitate and blocks out the world, colorful squares on a canvas that you can't quite placPost too long. Click here to view the full text.