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Amgad Muhammad

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What's the point of novels?

All of us would agree that reading for facts and knowledge widens our perspective, but what does reading novels do?
Do we read novels for the sole purpose of entertaining ourselves or does it make us intelligent in some way?
How can one take lessons from a story that was made up and characters that do not exist?

Is reading novels just a waste of time? a sort of video game for those who like to read?


Topics: books

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    May 12 2013: Ah, that’s OK Greg. I can see you have a wicked sense of humour. Actually, my appetite for fiction has declined recently, primarily, I believe, because I rarely emerge having learned something new, anything that has enriched my own perspective. Novels can make you laugh and even cry. This is good, strengthening the emotions. What else is there? The stories are just someone’s imagination. Is that valuable? Maybe not.
    So that leaves us with the language. Is it typical talk that one could hear over the fence or on a bus? Not terribly useful. But, if the words are carefully chosen, forming expressions you have never heard, using metaphors that carry you higher and farther and deeper than you have ever been, verbs and adjectives appearing in surprising ways and places, then you will have learned the power of language.
    In life, we speak rather simply, to exchange news or views, yet we do not see our listeners’ mouths open with fascination, intrigue, delight at hearing unique expressions that have made their minds work harder than their ears.
    I fear that most authors race forward with their narratives convinced their characters and events will do the heavy lifting. Not true. Tell a reader a saga of fantasy and at the end the tale soon drifts unremembered, and the reader not remarkably rewarded. Yes, we can suspend our disbelief for quite some time while we flip the pages but surely it is better to be endowed with belief, with the recognition that words are art, that a word can be worth a thousand pictures. Certainly not all of us can paint, but we can all speak and if a novel doesn’t show you how to add colours and dimension to what you want to say, then the writer has wasted your time.
    I bet that’s how you feel, Greg.
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      Jun 3 2013: I admire your love for language. But I think that a beautiful formulation of language can be expressed in any medium. A novel, a book, a movie. It doesn't give a reason for why we should look for it in novels instead of any different medium.

      Thanks Brent for joining us,

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