I dated someone once who didn’t get fiction. She didn’t see the point. “Why spend time reading fake stuff when there are real people doing real amazing things.” Of course, that’s paraphrased because this was over fifteen years ago. In my memory, she was reading something akin to Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” at the time. Some book she considered to be a real story full of things that actually happened.
I, being a current English major, could not fathom that take, and I, being in love with her, desperately wanted to explain it to her, but I, lacking any skill to convey a point with words, unless I write them down and take time to think on them, never got my point across.
I just realized something while writing the above paragraph that we’ll get to later.
People arguing on behalf of “lies” probably goes back to the beginning of story telling, to the ancient Greeks and their “catharsis,” to Sir Philip Sydney’s In Defense of Poesy, all the way to me dating a coworker much to the chagrin of management.
I just realized something else while writing the above sentence that we will get to momentarily.
We eventually broke up and I went on to get an A on my Sydney paper and to have clearer thoughts on the value of fiction. I just finished the first season of Hulu’s The Bear, and it reminded me of said thoughts and of an ex from another time, but the second thing I realized, mere moments ago, was that I don’t care about that argument, and I probably never did. The first realization that took me almost decades to understand was that I was never defending the merits of fiction. Stories have always been a huge part of who I am. They’re how I learn and make sense of the real around me. I wanted her to understand that about me. It was never about books and movies. I wanted her to understand ME better.
But stories don’t do that for everyone. Some people just don’t prefer them. It’s not like they chose to not have that preference. Some people like cilantro, some people hate it, but no one has ever sat down and debated the pros and cons of enjoying cilantro with themselves. We all just tried it and our tongues, which we didn’t have a say in creating, told us if we like it or not, so why try to defend either side?1 We didn’t choose to be there.
The notes in the margins of my notebook are from a much longer and probably more boring essay that died with my first realization. Now, I only have a few sentences left to this meager post.
I’m the only person I know who has watched The Bear. My wife and friends say things like “It’s too stressful.” I want to tell them they’re wrong and that they’ll love it, but I don’t know that. Perhaps the reason I put so much effort into convincing people to consume my favorite shows, music, or books isn’t because I think I’m right; I’m just bummed I found something I love that I can’t share with my loved ones.
539 words and two realizations to get to this last sentence. I don’t know about you, but I, being me, loved The Bear like I haven’t loved a bunch of lies in a long time.
- Unless of course some other side shows up arguing that they don’t understand the value of cilantro, and so no one need study it. Then let the fight begin. ↩︎