Z looks on

Very uninterestingly, today’s journey to London went smoothly.  The train wasn’t very busy so no one sat next to me, any audible chat was not intrusive, the trains were on time and I arrived at my destination, at both ends of the underground journey, unexpectedly promptly.  The meeting was fine and I put in a fair contribution of my own ideas and gained benefit from that of others and, although it rained, it didn’t while I was outside.  The most notable event of the whole day was when I was standing on the Tube, a seat became empty and a young woman offered it to me rather than sitting down herself.  Which was vastly kind, if a bit lowering, that I bring out the lovely in people, meaning I evidently look old and/or infirm.  Anyway, I smiled and thanked her and sat down.

Dave, this morning, said in his post that he empathises with fictional characters on film or in books to the extent that he identifies with them, even imagining himself as them, whether they are heroic or even deeply unpleasant.  I don’t suppose he identifies with all of them, but it made me question my own reaction to people in books – and I don’t think I ever have done that.  I might be very engaged with a story, deeply moved or interested by a character or situation, but it’s as an onlooker, not as a participant.

In fact, thinking about it, I seem to be becoming more dispassionate if anything.  I judge a book more rapidly than I used to – it doesn’t have to be badly written now, as once it did, for me to decide that I don’t care enough to finish it.  I still don’t know why this is, maybe I’ve just read most of my lifetime quota of books and very few excite me any more.  I seem to notice the writing more than I used to – for example, in any book set in the late 19th century which involves a family, I look for the baby boy born for the sole purpose of being poignantly killed off in the first world war.  Even very good writers do it – they’re manipulating my feelings, so I won’t play along.  A book has to be either light enough for me not to mind or good enough for me to either overlook the devices or else become so genuinely engaged that I don’t notice them.  Like in an action film where you know that several characters are going to be killed off and you entertain yourself by deciding the most likely ones.  Indeed, with a lot of more ‘serious’ actors, I often observe their acting more than the characters they portray.

I’m sorry about this, I don’t know what it says about me or the fiction concerned and I’m not drawing any conclusions.  It’s just how it is.

7 comments on “Z looks on

  1. Rog

    I think it must be a youth thing. I remember coming out of the cinema as a boy fired up as Davy Crocket, or being totally engrossed as a youth in the character of Billy Liar.

    Dave is just a lad at heart…

  2. Roses

    I need to be emersed in any book I read. I read for entertainment and without that emersion, it doesn’t seem worth my time.

    If I can see the writer setting things up, if their plotting and pacing is that transparent, it makes me grind my teeth.

    Life is too short for bad books…or rather, books that you don’t enjoy.

  3. Blue Witch

    I just find books and films less exciting than life… and I find that the older I get (so the more I’ve experienced other people’s, which is a lot, in my line of work) the less interested I am in either of the ‘manufactured’ forms.

  4. luckyzmom

    My husband reads books and watches movies over and over. When there are so many books to read and movies to see, why waste time with repeats.

    I’m still just a girl at heart.

  5. Z

    I’ve always been able to disappear into a book, but less so now. Not entirely sure if it’s the books or me. Maybe both. Too many permutations of the same few plots, perhaps. I make an exception for Badge, of course, who is always brilliant and unexpected. I have always reread books though. I remember as a child, getting to the end of a book and turning straight to the beginning and starting again.


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