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.