Thursday, December 27, 2018

Harvard undergraduate makes a pitch for audio books, and explains the value of fiction

I thought I would share this video from Harvard undergraduate John Fish on the value of reading fiction.

He makes a case for the idea that in identifying with a character you can learn about yourself.  He presents the all too familiar experience of studying Shakespeare in high school.  I remember reading “Julius Caesar” (10th grade), and “Macbeth”, “King Lear”, and (for a book report) “Hamlet” in twelfth grade.

I think I can turn this around and imagine this idea from an author’s point of view. Many of my older manuscripts are about “me” as the central character, who migrates through apocalyptic change and finds success, in his own terms, in relationships through this navigation.  Finally, for the manuscript (“Angel’s Brother”) that I am working on now, I tell the outer story through other two characters, a very gifted graduating college-student (whom Fish, ironically, I might be able to compare to based on his videos), and a middle aged covert CIA agent whose family and marriage is on the verge of breakup. The student, a gifted hacker, has discovered “the plot”, so to speak, through decoding the unpublished works of “Bill” (me) and now wonders if he is an alien himself (that’s a little bit the idea of NBC’s “The Event”, where Jason Ritter’s character doesn’t know that he is an alien). Of course, this leads to heavy layering of levels of plot.

Fish also makes a (sponsored) pitch for Audio Books, and recommends Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (1932) .  Conservative author George Gilder, in his book “Men and Marriage” in 1986, and probably even “Sexual Suicide” in 1973, mentioned this book and often made the point that the retreat from the traditional family (as already developed in society by the 1980s) would invite genetic engineering of babies for perfection and remove the personal risk of dealing with people with disabilities. Yup, the idea could be made to sound fascist.
Getting audio books made sounds like an expensive process, probably not practical for many self-published authors.  It also takes much longer to listen to a book than read it, and often the books are abridged. I have had friends who buy them.  
Fish has several other videos describing his relation to reading books by well-regarded authors, one a week. 

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