What did people do before the age of books for escape? Did they take their tallow candles into caves and draw pictures, then call all of their friends with their horns to share beef jerky and tell them a story? Did they pass around scrolls filled with tales of danger and romance? Everyone presumes that ancient cave drawings are records of actual history; what if they aren't? What if someone was bored, couldn't sleep, or ate too much buffalo and had indigestion. Maybe she got out her mortar and pestle, ground up some leaves and spices, stirred in some spit and just started drawing, imagining a steamy love affair, mystical creatures and huge mythical animals? (Wait, has Stephanie Meyers been climbing around in caves??)
I suppose that in the absence of books, friends got together to spin thread for cloth and gossiped about their cavemen and neighbors. I wonder what people from those times would think of all of the literature of today. I suspect a juicy piece of fiction would have been considered sorcery at worst, a book of lies at best.
A well written novel filled with suspense, unrequited love, or outright terror transports me somewhere else for awhile. I love books. I love the smell of a new book, the feel of the paper and shiny cover in my hands, and the anticipation when I open the front cover and prepare to dive in. My love affair with fiction started with Nancy Drew and all of her mysterious adventures, with the handsome Ned making my pre-teen heart skip a beat.
Stephen King came next, but I spent so many sleepless nights (including one night at the age of 18 rolled up on the end of my parent's bed after finishing The Shining) that I swore off the really scary stuff. I spent a year or so immersed in the life and times of the women who live inside the pages Victoria Holt novels, read every Mary Higgins Clark who-done-it, and still think about by the lives and traumas of the protagonists in Jodi Piccoult's observations of today's societal dilemmas. I truly love Anne (of Green Gables), and think Jane Austen is one of the best story tellers of all.
My heroes aren't the characters I've become for a few days. They are the talented magicians whose imaginations are so vivid, that their words can transport me out of myself for a time. Here's the thing about fiction. I don't have to agree or disagree with anything written. I'm not obligated to learn anything from it. I get to love the bad boys, hate the perfect girls, and hide behind someone when I'm scared.