Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When you're old, when you're old

Michael Dirda made an interesting argument on his weekly Washington Post discussion. In response to a (presumably middle-aged) reader complaining about the quality of today's fiction he said:

I doubt it's getting worse. Fiction is a genre geared to the young; nonfiction to the middle aged. Not that there's not a lot of overlap. Young people are interested in extreme emotions, especially those surrounding love; older people look for understanding and solace. I try to read a certain amount of contemporary fiction, but don't feel particularly in touch with a lot of its subject matter. Which is why style matters so much to me. A witty or winning style will carry me through the most inane subject matter. Witness my passion for the fiction of Ronald Firbank or the Lucia novels of E.F. Benson.

So here he asserts that young people are interested in how to live perhaps, while older people are looking for ways to deal with living. My problem with current fiction is the solipsistic nature of it. I want to see people interacting and acting as a society. I also think that non-fiction is best for understanding, but you needn't be old (sorry, older) for that. Both fiction and non-fiction serve as escapism (or can) but that might fall under his use of solace. But it is interesting to think that people read for different reasons and that age may be a critical variable.

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