It’s Official! Fiction is good for you!

It’s official! A scientific study says so, so it must be right. Reading fiction encourages readers to empathise with the characters, and, in some mysterious way, this makes fiction-reading a Good Thing both for readers, and also for society. Who’d have thunk it? Apparently, extensive research proves that children reading vampire romances felt more vampire-like afterwards; and children reading Harry Potter books felt more wizardly.

Lordy, lordy! Whatever will they think of next? Best keep these kids away from Portnoy’s Complaint, I think – they may not be able to handle it.



10 responses to this post.

  1. I think I was handling it quite a lot around the time I read Portnoy’s Complaint.


  2. A lot of dratted nonsense – I thought scientific studies were meant to be sensible – I have been since the age of eight reading E.A.P’s Tales of Mystery and imagination graduated to the Cthulhu Mythoi when I was about twelve and I thought it was hysterically funny picturing my Stepfather being caught by Cthulhu – I used to recite the Rhyme so that he might appear.
    As for Vampire fiction I find it mildly erotic, except for Robert Pattinson – he always looks as if a large plate of Cottage Pie would do him a lot of good. Now how can one feel more vampire like or less that is a load of B/S – I think such fiction is hardly suitable for children, thanks very much for posting this – because it points out the extent that Science will go to get itself noticed.

    Just one thing though, from the thoughts of an Argumentative Old Grandma – I am apt to think there is something going for the Argument of discouraging children from reading and watching TV – anything with a load of Violence in it, Violence does indeed beget violence, and if you treat a child brutally, and tell him he is no good – it merely makes him angry and he becomes caught up in a self-fulfilling prophecy – where someone has said “You mark my words – he will turn out BAD!!”
    Depends on what the fiction is about though dunnitt?? Children are little rascals for reading things that are “too old” for them, just as I did – but then I have not killed anyone – not as yet – anyhow.
    Excuse me I did not intend writing a novel here


    • I think I can honestly say that reading Crime and Punishment in no way encouraged me to become an axe murderer!

      How we are affected by the books we read, or by the films we watch, is, I think, subtle and complex, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on such matters. But it is true, I think, that we tend to accept as the norm whatever we grow up with, and see around us. So it’s possibly a good idea not to expose children to realistic violence. But then again, I grew up with Treasure Island, and some of the scenes there are shockingly violent.

      As for vampire stories – I can’t really see the attraction of teenage vampire romances. But then again, these stories were aimed at teenagers, and not at me! The greatest vampire novel remains – predictably – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the finest vampire story – as far as I’ve read – is the terrifying “Count Magnus” by M. R. James.


  3. ha ha!
    Don’t they want to prove scientifically that LIBRARIES are good for us?

    PS: As a mother of a future teenage boy, I thought Portnoy’s Complaint very educational. (for me) 🙂


  4. I have a newspaper clipping somewhere in which Joseph Brodsky was quoted as saying that he thought societies should choose their political leaders on the basis of the books they’ve read rather than their claims and promises. As foolish as Al Gore can be (I voted for him.), and despite the fact that he mangled the author’s name, at least he claimed The Red and the Black as one of his favorites! I can’t imagine W having that high on his list, although I was surprised to read recently that he was impressed by his reading of Camus’ The Stranger.


    • I don’t know that literary erudtion necessarily indicates ability in political matters, but it is certainly noticeable that political leaders even of the quite recent past were considerably more cultured than they are today. Looking back at the UK politicians who were prominent only twpo or three decades ago, Michael Foot (former leader of teh labour party) had written well-regarded books on Swift and on Byron; Kenneth Baker (Tory Cabinet minister in the Thatcher government) had edited anthologies of poetry for Faber & Faber; Dennis Healey was extremely learned and erudite on all sorts of things, as his various books testify; and so on. In contrast, Charles Clarke, recently Secretary of State for Education (!!!), publicly questioned the point of studying subjects that did not have quantifiable monetary benefits: “What is the point of Medieval Studies?” he asked rhetorically. That leading politicians appear not to be so learned these days is possibly a reflection on how little we nowadays value erudtion.


  5. I don’t know that literary erudtion necessarily indicates ability in political matters…

    Well, of course, he was being ironic, but he definitely was not concerned with erudition. His point was that the reading material with which these people passed their time was a more valuable window on their values and aspirations than their political blather.


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