Friday, December 16, 2005

The role of fiction: I am Michael Valentine Smith

Fiction plays a significant role in my everyday life. The reason why I prefer books over movies is that literature is more picturesque. Each image induced by a scenario depicted in a novel is painted with the internal brush, and I believe that such a mental exercise is healthy.

Generally the plot in a novel is somehow deeply related to the writer's own life, but one must realize that when I read a novel I'm not simply seeing the same mona-lisa that was painted by the author. In the same way that all observations are theory-laden, when I read novel X and you read novel X, we are seeing a somewhat different picture. There will always be certain concepts related to human life portrayed in the novel that make one reflect upon his/her own life experiences, and such an intimate connection with past experiences and the current immersion in the novel is not repeatable (with respect to other agents reading the novel).

It actually goes deeper than that. The world that each one of us lives in has been shaped by our life experiences. However, somebody will still ask me a question once in a while that is so deeply rooted in my own experiences that I cannot help but reply with a , "I don't know." In reality there's a good chance that I know the answer (know to myself). I simply choose not to attempt to project the answer from my own inner world onto their own little world. Sometimes concepts are lost in translation and until I feel that a particular concept will make the my-world to your-world leap unscathed, I will refrain from any such translations.

Don't think for one second that my musings into the world of literature are mini-journeys independent of the grand problem of object recognition. I'm simply trying to convey the point that there is something about past experience that is deeply related to current experience.

On another note, I'm currently reading Heinlen's Stranger in a Strange Land. I have become more like Michael Valentine Smith and he has become a little bit more like me.