Archive for August 18th, 2011

On escapism

What is it that makes me feel so uncomfortable to see the act of reading described as “escapism”?

The most obvious answer is that serious literature isn’t escapism. Serious literature is about real life, or it’s about nothing at all. Indeed, it can sometimes be quite the opposite of “escapism”: it can force the reader to face and to engage with matters they may prefer not to. The term “escapism” in this context seems to me not merely inadequate, but grossly misleading

But what about reading that isn’t serious?  Here again, I’m not sure that “escapism” is the right word. No-one will claim, I think, that the Sherlock Holmes stories or the novels of P. G. Wodehouse count as serious literature, and, yes, I find it an unmitigated delight to enter into these marvellous fictional worlds. But do I do so because I want to escape from my real life? No, I really don’t think so.