5.15.2011

It's the twenty-first century and I'm working with a bad set of assumptions.

Just have to get this out of the way and clear the air (and apparently the majority of my readers....) but I was stunned at the responses, both in the comments and in my personal e-mails, from readers of this blog who confess to never reading fiction.  Silly me.  I'm dragging around academic constructs of art photography from the 1960's and 1970's.  They go something like this:  Art is important.  Art moves cultures forward.  Art enriches lives.  Art enriches whole demographics.  All forms of art are interlinked.  Music is intertwined with visual art which is intertwined with literature, which is sleeping with dance and theater.  In other words, all art is art.

The idea that one picks and chooses from one category or another like a Chinese menu is so foreign to me.  I can't conceive of having lived a life as a university student and not have relished reading the works of Nabokov and Pope and Hemmingway and Wallace Stevens.  Or the poems of Billy Collins.  Can't imagine getting thru a tough month of work without having a novel on the bedside.  Maybe a detective novel by Ian Rankin or short stories from J.D. Salinger.  It's like getting a free ticket to other worlds and other universes.  Getting to temporarily borrow another person's mind and point of view.  I read Atlas Shrugged and was appalled.....but fascinated.  Now I know where some of my acquaintances came up with some of the ideas that move them and scare me.  But at least I understand them.

To cut one's self off from literary fiction is either some remarkable act of penance or folly.  Like saying you only eat meat.  No fruits, no vegetables.

So I marvel that  we can even see making images in the same way.  And maybe that's another construct that's in my head.  Maybe while I'm walking around just letting images come to me by some sort of inefficient osmosis all those left brain people out there have drawn up matrixes and ven diagrams, plotted their "creative development" out on graphs and have measured their "artistic" productivity on a scale I can't imagine, all the while chilling out with a glass of chardonnay and a good book on The History of Iron or Understanding C++ Compilers or Nuclear Remediation for Dummies.  But I may have it even more incorrect than I first supposed.  Perhaps people who don't read fiction don't drink wine either.  If they did, how would they converse about it?   Would it be like, "I analyzed the chemical constituents of several Pinot Noirs, did a regression analysis taking into account weather, average soil acidity and the trade winds as reported by the Economist and decided I would be best suited to drinking only wines that start with the letter "S" and "L" and then only if I could find them within 6 miles of my home.  That's the only way it makes scientific and economic sense....."


Maybe the need to do photography,  take workshops, and to try and get in touch with the artistic side of your technical art is really your soul screaming out for you to pick up a damn fiction book and lose yourself in another way of thinking.  Maybe it's the horribly repressed right side of your brain making a last gasping attempt to save itself (and a whole half of your own brain) from entropy and atrophy.

I end this column with a sense of despair.  If my readers, who have come across to me as worldly and educated and socially sophisticated have given up on fictional literature,  I fear that the Barbarians are already past the front door and heading for the library.  Bent on destroying anything that can't be measured.

What does this have to do with photography?  Apparently, everything.....and nothing.



57 comments:

Anonymous said...

Silly me. I actually thought that all good photographers were also liberal and democrats and loved art too. Can't get my head around the idea of an arch conservative who could also make art. Although I'm sure some exist....somewhere.

Anonymous said...

lol... I guess we all have different views of the world... For not having read fiction - I make most of the wine I drink, so not sure what to say there :-) I see art in a very technical world of my real professional life, but I suspect it's not the art you would recognise. All is good - variety hey :-)

kirk tuck said...

Anonymous, Please keep politics off the blog. Everyone is entitled to their parent's indoctrination...

kirk tuck said...

Second anonymous. When I open my brain I can see that what you say is true. It just doesn't fit with my perspective yet. But yes, dialog and difference is good.

Daniel Fealko said...

Yes, I drink wine, and The History of Iron actually sounds interesting. I'll have to add that to my Amazon wishlist. ;-)

reikui said...

hahaha! Loved this blog, laughed all the way. When I go out on a shoot I love to imagine myself as Elodin from Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind. There's a good chance I'm just retarded though.

reikui said...

Also, The History of Iron really does sound interesting...

Rodney said...

Kirk,
I think this may be the most important post you have ever made. Thanks

Michael said...

Kirk--

My undergraduate journey began in engineering, wandered through art, then finished in English (literature). I also have graduate degrees in theology and business administration. I like to pick up a good novel just as much as a good camera.

All that's to say: I'm in your corner on this one.

Michael

R. R. Alexander said...

I'm appalled sometimes when I realize that someone doesn't read fiction, but will only lift technology tomes or nonfiction to the right reading distance from their eyes. But what seems worse to me is to read next nothing that isn't on the internet.
In a parallel vein, I once went on an interview for a writing contract. The interviewer, an engineer, asked me an obtuse question that led me to say, "I hear language in the same way that musicians hear music."
His face lost all expression. "I don't know what you mean." He said, puzzled.
The concept was a bloody heap on the floor, but I tried to revive it. "Well, the same way that mathematicians perceive math or the same way that photographers see photographs before they take them."
For several seconds his face remained so blank that I couldn't read it at all.
I didn't get the contract. I guess that from his viewpoint I had been beyond obtuse...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clay said...

Is this some sort of generational thing? I am guessing we are about the same age, and I cannot imagine my life being anything but depressingly empty if I did not have my nightly escape into some good (or bad) fiction. Even bad fiction allows you a glimpse into the mind of another human being. You discover that we all are similar in startlingly different ways.

Arg said...

I find fiction much harder to read in an online world. There is so much drivel, poorly written and only interesting to the author. And one is one microsecond away from all the news and blogging and technically interesting stuff, it's too easy to divert. The old days of curling up on a private space with a great author like Rand or Steinbeck or Donne: to me the fiction world is best entered with the help of a bit of isolation from the world of jobs, responsibilities and competence.

Mark Kalan said...

I'm appalled by the number of people I meet that don't read at all! I've read my share of fiction despite not having a University education (I did graduate Brooks Institute of Photography in the mid 70s). Currently I'm reading memoirs due to the fact that I've been writing mine.

Now it's time to sign off and pick up a book.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk,

I am reminded of this:

“A considerable percentage of the people we meet on the street are people who are empty inside, that is, they are actually already dead. It is fortunate for us that we do not see and do not know it. If we knew what a number of people are actually dead and what a number of these dead people govern our lives, we should go mad with horror.”
George Gurdjieff

Thank you for the thoughtful post.

Regards,

Jeff

Frank Grygier said...

It would appear that that market for literary endeavors by photographers for photographers is drying up. Here is a good working title... "How to Light my Imagination"...

Jim said...

Hey Kirk, There's a lot of interesting reading that isn't fiction, like history, biography (personal history), religion, art (history and criticism), philosophy, travel, etc., etc. I have an entire collection of Appalachian Trail books. I've read fiction but generally it's low on my list. Too many other things to read.

andrew oliveros said...

I should've read this post before the previous one. It's curious that some people in a creative field like photography aren't drawn to fiction writing. I don't think it's good or bad, just curious.

As for me, I'll take a DosPassos, Hemingway or Salinger novel any day. I can't say I agree with everything they said or believe, but it's such a joy to read their wonderful lovely words.

Dave Jenkins said...

I guess I've already identified my taste in fiction as distinctly low-brow, but I do love to read. I read a lot of non-fiction, but I also read a great deal of fiction.

I much prefer a book to a movie, because I have my own movie playing in my head as I read. Also, once you enter a movie, so to speak, you're in it to the end. You can lay a book down whenever you like, pick it up again later, and restart the movie.

I agree with your comments about art, but, reinforcing my self-identification as low-brow, I have to admit that the only arts that really interest me are photography, writing, and music.

Most so-called higher education isn't education at all, it's just job-training. The fact that these are high-level jobs doesn't make my statement any less true.

A true education, which would consist of much exposure to the humanities, is very hard to come by these days, since the liberal arts have been impoverished almost to the vanishing point by the philosophy of post-modernism. Most of the genuinely educated people you meet are either older or they probably got most of it on their own, not in college or grad school.

Jan Klier said...

I think the issue with fiction might be less the lack of interest in it, but that our consumption habits have changed which make traditional fiction less compatible.

We used to cook, and then sit down and have a nice multi-course meal and a good conversation. I remember as kid sometimes getting up in the morning and finding my parents still sitting w/ friends in the living room engrossed in the conversation that started the evening before, several empty wine bottles at the table.

But today, even if you cook, we use many prepped ingredients, we swallow our food so we can get to work or online, and despite that we feel good that we didn't take the even less healthy fast food road.

I do occasionally read a novel, but probably not more than two or three times a year. The last one was an eBook on my iPad. But the problem with a novel is that it really only works if you read it end-to-end, and that is a serious commitment in our age of information ADD where news is limited to 140 characters. Even on the non-fiction books, I rarely read the whole book. I'll find the chapter that is relevant and might read 10 pages at most. Then it goes on the shelf, and months go by before I'm in need of a nugget of information, and I'll tackle another set of pages.

But would be interesting to know how many of the folks that engross themselves in photography also consume other forms of art (novel, an independent movie, a classic symphony, a jazz concert, a play). Is there a possible connection to the phenomenon of gear heads? Maybe photography is more of a tech gadget than an expression of art, maybe the art is just a necessary by product?

On the question of writing a novel - I actually think it would be a fascinating project. However, not so much in terms of publishing it as a book, but because it has so many common components with writing scripts for film, and thus has a very clear connection to your work with the film camera.

kirk tuck said...

Jan. Turn off the work and try reading a novel a week. Your life will change. And I'm willing to bet it will be for the better. In my house we sit down every evening and eat a meal that Belinda, Ben and I share in the preparation of. We talk. We taste. We share books. We go to museums. We listen to music while we eat. It's never just for physical nutrition. It's to feed the soul as well. Just because technology is new doesn't make it good. TV didn't replace books. The internet hasn't replaced books. Just the way they are delivered.

I disagree about writing for film. Sometimes, when I write fiction, I do it because the words come together to make music in my mind. Very wonderful music. It's the power of language. And again, even if there is only an audience of one.

Robert Wolterman said...

I was going to comment on the earlier post that a fiction book about a photographer would be a good read. I think you're on to something there.

I don't see why people don't want to read. Reading and photography are my break away from playing engineer from 8-5 everyday.

In fact, I just finished reading "Dune" after reading the bulk of the book on a business trip. I couldn't put the book down and it pains me that I don't have the rest of the Frank Herberts' books that follow.

Maybe I grew up differently than the other people in my age group (28)...

Matthew said...

Kirk - What I admire most about this and so many of your other posts is essentially this: your aggression. And I mean that in the best way possible. Sure, many of the measured voices in your comments section are reasonable - i. e. not wrong, and maybe even right. But that misses the point, as I see it. You are not attempting to describe the permissible consumption of written works, with an emphasis on fiction. No, there's no use for that. It seems you're baffled, as I often am, by the pervasive shallowness of engagement with the possibilities of existence - its sheer reach and variety - that many "creative" people exhibit. The shock is genuine; you are not naive.

I'm as technical with language as any engineer is with his or her material. I'm a classical philologist, meaning that I've made the study of language (and, consequently, poetry and prose of all sorts, philosophy, etc.) my business as seriously as I would if I were a scientist or engineer. But even as I fill my head with laryngeals, dialectology, and descriptive grammar, I am genuinely appalled each time one of my colleagues gives me that stare - that horrifying, blank stare - as I speak of a poet's subtlety, grace, or power in ways that don't allow for quantitative analysis (yes, we do it, too).

I was stuck on a point in my thesis recently, and the insights that dislodged me came from composing poetry (and commentaries to it) and from totally immersing myself in photography. Trying to communicate how that inspiration operated was impossible. It's private, not by my choice, but because I've only found a handful of people to whom it makes sense - one of whom is, incidentally, a software engineer.

So I guess what I want to say is this: I experience life like this because I am too aggressive - maybe even greedy - to circumscribe my current experience and say, "Ok, this is enough." I want to see it all new, all the time, and be better and better able to capture it or say something about it. And it's this kind of aggression that (I think) characterizes your approach to what you do. You don't seem to be able to help it, and that's a good thing.

calvininjax said...

You live in Texas, Kirk, so know only too well the Barbarians are already in the library and have destroyed the books they disapprove of. ;-)

Dan Rosenthal said...

Great post.

Art is important. Always has been always will be. I fact, the more the world speeds up the more important art will be, albeit for those who have the willpower to stop and take in what art has to offer. There aren't too many people in galleries but those that are, well I'm pretty sure they would not give back that 30 minutes of creative rejuvenation for any amount of meetings, forum-discussion or other daily grind.

Photography is such an interesting career/hobby/artform because it is a mix, depending on the person, of art and technology. The artist is predominately concerned with the art side of photography; the technology side is more interesting to those wanting mastery of a tool. Each to their own and each must find that balance that satisfies them.

I studies English literature and philosophy. They shaped the way I see the world. Photography is one of the media I use to show others how I see the world.

Novels are stories and narratives about life, real or imagined. I can think of no greater tool with which to expand one's creative pallate. In your portraits you tell stories of the people you capture. That comes from a deeper understanding of humanity. For those who only wish to have perfect sharpness, perfect composition, perfect pixels, perfect everything - they'll struggle to convey a sense of person, of personality in their pictures. And if that's all they're after, then that's ok too...

Dan Rosenthal said...

Excuse typos, dang iPad!

carlos benjamin - benjphoto.com said...

I wrote a long, rambling reply..... Blogger ate it. Maybe if it had been fiction Blogger would not have consumed it.

patrick wilken said...

Interesting post. I only recently started following your blog, and am enjoying it.

Have you read "The joy of good photographs" by Gerry Badger? Badger makes the claim that all good photographs somehow involve the photographers inner sensibilities connecting in a meaningful way with the external. I am not sure if I am expressing that quite right, but that's the gist and it makes sense to me.

In that sense I think your post is quite right: as photographers it's the richness of our understanding that makes us better photographers, and we gain this from immersing ourselves in all sorts of things including the arts, and perhaps especially literature (interestingly, as an aside, Badger also argues that photography is much closer to literary narrative than the visual arts like painting).

Dave Jenkins said...

I haven't read Badger and don't disagree with his thesis as you report it, but so very many photographers have also been musicians that I think there has to be a strong connection there. I also find a strong connection between photography, music, and architecture. There is a certain building in Atlanta that always makes me think of a Bach fugue.

John said...

I tend to read mostly Sci-Fi when I read fiction, more often it's audio books on MP3 to listen to during my 2 hours of commuting everyday. I've also written an odd fanfic short story here and there. Mostly to just get an idea down on how I thought the story should go.

I find that if you vary your creative endeavors you don't get into a creative block on any one form. My latest thing has been bread baking. Science, craft, and a tasty reward at the end. It's completely different than a visual art, but it hits all the same buttons.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Great post, and just as an aside, I went through a long period where I could not read fiction; no more than a few pages; I could never seem to connect with the characters. Thankfully, that period passed.

Bron

Bold Photography said...

It's also been a while since I've read a good fiction book. Mostly, I've been reading business books, books about photography (can't put those Kirk books down...), and the news.

However - weekends, it's family time. That might mean take pictures at an event my daughter is enjoying... or go off somewhere --- or even spend time mowing and cleaning. Perhaps it is time to set flickr aside for a while, and spend some time with a book... my library hasn't been updated in quite a while.

That said - the basic premise that people just aren't reading fiction is probably true. If you do choose to write your novel, maybe make him a secret spy agency person trying to bring down terrorist organizations from the inside... or maybe not.

Royce said...

I love reading fiction, but as I've gotten older it's been tougher to get the same thrill I used to get when I was younger. The more you read, the more you realize how difficult it is for someone to come up with a really original and new idea about people. It can be tough to find stuff that matters to me out of the thousands of new titles produced every year. Non-fiction is easier to sort through. It's a little more standardized, and you can pick your books by subject matter.

Anonymous said...

As a person who leans to the right, I am a horrid (but I try hard) photographer who was educated as a computer scientist, a student of literature and ultimately as a lawyer... Politics have little to nothing to do with art or photography, for example,Thomas Sowell is a leading conservative thinker, but also an avid photographer....

http://picasaweb.google.com/sowell.hoover/PhotographsByThomasSowell#

Anonymous said...

Sorry anonymous. Scientists can be great artists. Ultra conservatives....not so much. It's just not in the DNA

John F. Opie said...

Hi -

Goodness. People don't read fiction? So that is where all the barbarians come from, and that is a term applicable to all politics, from left to right and back again in the circle.

I read a lot. 20 books a month, at least. I've got my light reading, my serious reading and then sheer joy of reading. I've got a small library of works I re-read and re-read and re-read until they fall apart (and there is one book I have that has been rebound twice in the 35 years I've owned it): it keeps my imagination going.

Those who don't read fiction probably think nothing of not washing the hands after using the toilet. Or can't understand why anyone could or would be a poet. I understand that they also think nothing of taking up two parking spots because they can't be bothered.

Goodness, I could get worked up over this. Why bother: I'll go read some Raymond Chandler instead...

http://sedulia.blogs.com/sedulias_quotations/2008/11/raymond-chandler-on-blondes.html

John

very1silent said...

You're making the unreasonable assumption that people who don't read fiction are reading nonfiction. My understanding is that most of the US population hasn't set foot in a library or bookstore for years.

Dan H said...

One of the best things my mother ever did for me was to hide the TV and buy me a bookcase. Although I don't read as much as i used to, I cannot do without it. It frees the mind from the mundane and lets it rest and recharge the creative batteries ( I have NEVER felt this way after web browsing for 2 hours!). I guess you make time for things that are important to you. I dont believe that anyone dosen't have enough time to read, it just may not be up there on your to do list.

Furthermore it exposes you to ideas and "pictures" from others that see the world differently, and it can help to develop tolerance of alternative ways of living.

Dave Jenkins said...

"Scientists can be great artists. Ultra conservatives....not so much. It's just not in the DNA."

Anonymous is a deeply ignorant person who is clearly a troll and keeps dragging politics into this discussion against Kirk's clearly stated objections.

Jeff said...

Outstanding post...I agree with Jan and worry about the pace of the world, the information ADD, sound bites and 140 characters. We (few of us, at least) and certainly our children aren't exposed to a rich literary education, and I fear we are losing the ability to have thoughtful, rich conversations with each other as a result.

For myself, I am a writer, poet and photographer (though none of these by vocation). Because they are all so intertwined for me, I don't really excel at any of these three passions, but engaging in each (reading and writing literature, making and viewing photos) is soul food and my basis for relating to others.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, and the thoughtful comments.

-Jeff

Patrick Dodds said...

I used to read, fiction mainly, now I don't. The internet may have done for it, or aging, or my work (I see enough real life drama working in a hospital to make reading about manufactured life-changing events unappealing; in fact, I think it is having to deal with other humans in my free time, even if only fictional, that makes me put down novels almost as soon as I pick them up). Sometimes I think it is having to wear glasses now that I am older - they get in the way somehow - I'm always fiddling with them, changing angles, cleaning them... although this may be a symptom and not a cause.

I'm not proud of my new found barbarianism, and in fact miss reading in an abstract sense in that it gives a depth to life, an accretion of ideas, a patina of complexity, that other art forms seldom manage. But I can't seem to get back into it.

Kirk, a propos your positing that literature informs other art forms (and I'm not disagreeing, or being flippant): did Van Gogh read a lot of fiction, or Vermeer? A Vermeer contains more that will move a soul than my entire photographic output to date, but I don't know how many books he read from one year to the next.

Anonymous said...

I feel sad this evening, my Kindle died just as I was in the middle of reading a superb Jim Thompson. I am totally lost without it and it's all your fault I feel this way Kirk, your superb & enthusiastic recommendation of the Amazon Kindle made this avid traditionalist and "fiction" book reader buy one the very next day and it indeed changed my life for the better.

A life without reading fiction is one dull life I do not even want to contemplate, having to wait two days while Amazon send me out a replacement new Kindle is bad enough. Never or to hardly ever read fiction sends shivers down this readers spine.

Still, I've got a pile of old Ross Macdonald's I've been meaning to get through so the good old printed page will still allow me to drift off into another world and continue to delight, fulfil and expand the mind. Amen to fiction is all I can say, it enriches ones life in ways other sources never will. Oh, and thanks again Kirk for hyping that Kindle as I read more now than ever!

kirk tuck said...

to the reader (bless you) above: Can I recommend you try Ian Rankin's latest book/novel: Complaints. It's great. I couldn't put it down. And it's not like a Vince Flynn with endless high tech gun play. It's just a great book.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the rec Kirk, I'll certainly look it up. Tried but failed to get into Rankin's Rebus stuff for some reason but more than willing to try again.

I guess (well, to me) living in the UK attracts me to the painting great American crime authors lay out on their canvas ... especially the likes (for me) of Chandler, Macdonald, Thompson, Howard Browne, Arthur Lyons and similar. It just draws you in, the era, the speak, the dames. I guess maybe US readers may feel the same in reverse regarding British authors.

kirk tuck said...

Have you tried the Inspector Brunetti novels? By an author named Donna Leon. Mostly they take place in Venice and the descriptions of food and general life are wonderful.

The character is not a Canon camera user....

Paul Kelly said...

I’m sure you’re not in a minority as an avid fiction reader, but I think there are also many of us who do not get the same enjoyment that you do from it.

I used to force myself to read fiction when I went on holiday, but I always ended up feeling that I had just wasted so many hours of my life for no benefit. I have much the same feeling about the cinema - I think I have seen about four films this century and those were just to be sociable.

As for the theatre, I found it so boring that I found myself examining the ceiling mouldings, or counting the spotlights, so I gave it up years ago.

I do read non-fiction, but they are generally rather solid and require some time to get through, so I only managed around 20 last year.

Mel said...

Too many years reading scientific journals has killed my ability to enjoy non-fiction (unless it's a photo technique manual....).

And here I thought reading was becoming a lost art...great to see so many reactions to the prior post. Read on, gang.

Clay said...

I wonder if there's a correlation between our reading and our photography? Do non-fiction readers tend to photojournalism? Do fiction readers lean towards portraits? I'm not talking about what people do for work (if they are professional photographers). I mean the pictures we take for ourselves, or the work of others that really moves us. Suppose there's a relationship here?

kirk tuck said...

Fiction-ers and non-Fiction-ers, please sound off and let's see where Clay's question takes us. I, for one, am most curious....

Dave Jenkins said...

I doubt if you'll find much correlation.

I read both fiction and non-fiction. Much of the photography I do for myself would fall under the general heading of landscape, I suppose. I do street photography abroad, but not much in the US. (Partly because I live in the country.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the Donna Leon rec Kirk, liking the sound of these. Loved the Michael Didbin Aurelio Zen series which were also set in Italy so this sounds right up my street, so cheers!

Re: Clay's question - As an avid fiction reader I find the opposite in fact and love shooting photojournalism mainly but hey, I'll aim my lens at anything or anyone that captures my attention and imagination so no real strict rules on that front really.

Tyson Habein said...

I read both, but have a deeper love of fiction, so put me in that camp.

I shoot... stuff.

It's people based, often mistaken for documentary in nature (though that's a bit of a stretch). I'd say fine art with a foot in editorial.

Clay said...

To answer Patrick Dodd's question, at least in part: I couldn't find any records of what Vermeer read - he had two day jobs, as an innkeeper and art dealer, so he may not have had a lot of time. Van Gogh's original obsession was to become a minister, so he studied the Bible with his typical intensity. He was also a huge fan of Michelet's l'Oiseau, an essay on birds. Degas read 17th and 18th century literature. Manet was a friend of Proust and Baudelaire, so we can assume that he read a fair amount of their work.

I've been trying to capture how I feel about this, and found this in Robert Henri's "The Art Spirit", which doesn't have anything to do with books, but seems appropriate:

"For an artist to be interesting to us he must have been interesting to himself. He must have been capable of intense feeling, and capable of profound contemplation."

So, what you should do with your non-art time is whatever leads you in this direction.

Keda said...

There are people who don't read fiction? In this world? As in EVER?

I often read non-fiction, but that entails thinking for me, not relaxation. How do you escape with and through non-fiction? And after all, in non-fiction the author says what he needs to say. There is no metaphors or similes, although probably a lot of analagies or real life scenarios though...

Of course I don't drink wine. At all. Or any other alcohol. At all. Nope, fiction is all the wondrous other world I require.

(loved the post)

Rube Redfield said...

I read fiction, take photos, and drink wine everyday. But do not require others to do so. I also speak non English languages everyday as well, but that is not required either.

Rube

Kirk Tuck said...

Rube, Good for you. But if I were the omnipotent ruler of the world fiction reading would be as required as clothing and taxes. People need strict guidance or they end up annoying me. And that can't be right in any philosophical construct...

jtsmall said...

Back in 1965-66 as a college freshman we were required to take a full year of literature. It's when I learned to read novels. You know, great works of fiction.

At the end of the second semester my professor, sitting on the corner of his desk and summing up our year said, 'You must continue to read great fiction.' When he explained why it was a seminal moment in my life. I'm not sure why, but I knew it then.

He said simply, 'You must continue to read great fiction because it makes you a better person. It has me.'

That's it. That's all and it was enough. I have a significant library of real books, great literature with a bit of photography on the shelves too. Much I have read, much to be read.

Kirk reminds me again all these many years later why reading great fiction is important. No, I would agree, essential. It makes us better people.