Monday, August 24, 2009

Escapism is not so very bad...and benefits the locals!

There is so much to debate in Julian Dobson's latest amazing blog post that it is hard to know where to begin. I could debate "why people read" or "what people read" or "I bet the locals are happy to have the tourists' money regardless of what they are buying"or "who says history is more factual than fiction"? I love it! Get in on it!

Our Man with Rats wonders whether we are "bored and uncomfortable with the real stories that make us who we are" and that is a complicated question which brings to mind recent blog-bates about virtual reality versus reality, for one. Certainly fiction is a form of escapism, allowing the readers to enter into worlds that may be completely different from their own. An enjoyable and relaxing break from their day to day lives (like a holiday?).

Without thinking too deeply just at the moment, here is my light hearted and shallow response:

1. There is so much choice now about where we can go and what we can do on our holidays (and it is easy to go places) that people probably use books and films/tv to help them make their choices.

2. Many people are not that intrepid and may want to go and visit places with which they are a bit familiar - albeit through books or film/tv. The place is less alien and less threatening and this may be important to the traveller, especially if the destination is in another country.

3. Some people have a preference for fiction over history and others have a preference for history over fiction. Most blokes I know maintain they prefer to read history and most women I know say they prefer to read fiction. (Maybe women are the ones choosing the holiday destinations about which Our Man with Rats writes?) However, reading a novel often inspires people to learn more about the period and the place in which the novel was set - thereby inspring them to read some history and/or visit the place in which it was set and maybe pick up some history along the way (and spend some money, thus benefitting the locals).

4. Clearly an accurate understanding of who we are and where we come from must come from history (at least, that is what my head mistress told me when I wanted to opt out of history) but then again that argument is fraught with difficulty: whose version of history is the accurate one?

That's another good topic for a blog post....


  1. Thanks for the link, Jane - and the response.

    Obviously there are all sorts of stories that make up who we are, many of them invented. It's the marketing and the constructed identity associated with it that intrigues me. So while James Herriot is seized on as an icon of north Yorkshire, the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon is careful 'neither to celebrate nor denigrate his achievements' (perhaps fearing an influx of regicidal republicans).

    But I'd agree that fiction and the writers of fiction can be important to our sense of place - Shakespeare in Stratford, Dickens in Rochester, and so on. Although I wonder whether the people who actually live in Stratford and Rochester might get a little fed up with it...

  2. Indeed, I agree although with a bit of clever marketing even the Cromwell museum could invite people to join a constructive re locals getting fed up with it, once again I am sure you are right (I live in London so have to put up with people all the time...) but on the other hand ye olde shakespeare's pen stationary shop is probably pretty grateful...

  3. Julian: another thought occurred to me: that is the schism between private enterprise and state enterprise. Private enterprises tend to be more overtly "capitalistic" and are staffed with people who do not see money and the pursuit of money as inherently a BAD THING. Often the people who staff public and quasi public enterprises (museums, tourisst boards, even NGOs)are viscerally against "capitalism" and against the "filthy lucre of the large corporation" and will not somehow actively seek money through "any means" nor will they even turn to corporatations for sponsorship. It is as if their objective has loftier purposes than making money. Whilst education and information are, in and of themselves, more virtuous pursuits than money for its own sake, public institutions may find that they get more people in the door if they use the tactics employed by their more commercial competition. Thought...