Sunday, 9 June 2013

happiness is...

Words and Strange Voices - Personal Blog

Words and Strange Voices

that moment when...

happily ever after part two

At church this morning I was thinking about books. (See my post Happily Ever Afters.) I was thinking about how popular literature is currently very fantasy based; how it is an escape from real life. The preach at church was about 'What happens when we die?' and Pete, who was speaking, focused on how any works you do now, as a work for the Lord, will not be in vain. He cited 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, 'Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.' The preach was very good and I took a lot away from it, but it made me think about the Bible. As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the word of God; that it is His truth. Pete also talked about hope. Hope doesn't have the answers, nor is it a form of escapism. But God gives us hope in order that we might persist and persevere; that what we do now in His name and in hope, will not be in vain. I was also thinking about how, psychologically speaking, faith seems to fulfil the desires of the human mind, especially my desires. Many psychologists believe that God was created by man to fulfil these desires and that believing in Him is just a fantasy; an escape. But unlike the fantasy books I read to escape from real life, the Bible is true. It doesn't give us an escape from life; it helps us to deal with life, with God. It gives us hope. And teaches us to live life in such a way that, though it isn't perfect, we can be joyful in God. More people should turn to the Bible rather than fiction, because it is the truth and it maintains us and gives us hope. Perhaps if we turned to God more, we wouldn't be so desperate to escape our lives. The only thing the Bible really has in common with fantasy fiction is the 'happily ever after'.

This post is rather unfocused and probably doesn't make sense to anyone but me, so I apologise if you think it's a load of rubbish. But it made sense in my head. In the strange way that things in my head make sense...

the reader...

happily ever afters

I was talking to a friend at church today about books. The conversation was linked to University (I'm going back to study English Literature and Creative Writing) and to a part time job I've applied for in a bookshop and to the novel that I am currently attempting to write. The novel I'm writing is fantasy, one of my favourite genres, and we were discussing the recent increase in interest in fantasy fiction thanks to such books as 'The Hunger Games' and the release of the new film of 'The Hobbit'.

I have always loved fantasy. Ever since a very young age I have read, to escape from the real world and from real life. And what better genre for escapism than fantasy? So far removed from reality that it's often set in different worlds. And I realised that, what if the reason for the recent upwards trend in fantasy fiction is a sign of more and more people wishing to escape real life and enter into other worlds? Reading is generally considered a distraction and a great form of escapism. And in the current social and economic climate, where more and more people are suffering and living in poverty, who wouldn't want to escape from those things? Ok, so those living in poverty are unlikely to be able to afford books, in fact, it is well known that those who come from poorer backgrounds are less likely to be able to even read; which in twenty-first century England is just appalling. But it makes sense. During the wars, popular literature was based around austerity and hopes for a great future, once we won the war. And in other times, the arts have reflected the times, literature often being referred to in terms of periods, such as 'the Romantic' period, or 'the Gothic' era. That's why, in the study of literature, context plays a massive part. Subjects such as history, philosophy and psychology all have their place in the study of literature because of the impact they have on writing.

Take Dickens for example. His novels are considered to be social commentaries; the themes within his writing including poverty, social stratification, politics, crime and post-industrial revolution working conditions. Without some knowledge of these things around the time Dickens was writing, literary scholars would be unaware of the historical significance of his works. Fantasy fiction may not appear to have the same significance in the sense that the themes teach us little or nothing about the world as it is today, but the very fact that it is a currently popular genre in literature does say something about how literature, and perhaps the arts in general, are seen in modern society. In the past, writing has served many different purposes; didactic/moral messages, propaganda, social commentary and even just pure pleasure. And each has had its place. In more ostentatious times, reading was considered an accomplishment and pleasure for those of a certain class and literature reflects that with a wealth of stories centering around the higher classes and idealistic notions of love and money.

Now, reading is still considered a leisure activity and in being thus, the themes seem to be more for pure enjoyment than anything else. But suppose that, aside from the pleasure aspect, fantasy fiction serves another purpose. Fantasy is fun and exciting and daring, and shows great imagination, and part of its charm is that it's not true. It is the purest fiction. But why is that so captivating to modern readers? Why are we so desperate to dive into stories of things that do not and cannot exist? Is it just that real life is too much for us to bear? That we want some kind of distraction, or better yet, an escape? I suggest that this is the case. People are so out of love with their own lives and with the real world, that they want to escape into other worlds, where amazing creatures and magic exist, and everything always works out for the best. I should know. I have always used reading as a form of escape, and what better escape than fantasy. There's just something so enchanting about the idea of '...and they all lived happily ever after.'