The View From Hemingway's Attic

Culture, politics, literature

William Hazelgrove

William Hazelgrove
chicago, Illinois, usa
January 27
William Hazelgrove is the best selling author of four novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks Mica Highways and Rocket Man. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. His latest novel Rocket Man was chosen Book of the Year by Books and He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway’s Attic. He lives in Chicago.


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MARCH 18, 2012 10:52AM

The Advantages or Reading and Writing Fiction

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The New York Times Sunday Review just had an article about the neuroscience of reading novels or fiction. The upshot is that reading fiction is good for your brain. Apparently all those neurons like the connotation of metaphors and description. Your brain lights up like its on crack from reading fiction and goes dark like a dead bulb watching television. But there is more. People who read fiction have more social intelligence and pick up on social cues faster. They seem able to decipher human relationships and understand people more quickly  as opposed to their nonfiction reading breathen. To those of us who have been reading and writing fiction for years there is nothing new here.

You always knew that your ability to finish other peoples sentences, pick the word for them while they said,..what that's word...I know it...was related somehow to all those books you read that no one else cared about. Or the way you could know somebody from a single sentence, gesture, nuance. It just happens like that. Reading fiction is probably the most intelligent thing anyone can do because as the NY Times article points out more of your brain is used in the process than sucking in information via digital land.This makes perfect sense.

You quickly saw your ability to speak when reading fiction shoot up. Reading a novel or a poem allows you to simply think faster. There is something totally engaging about a great story that probably allows your brain to play in a way it cannot when stuck in some turgid nonfiction task. Great fiction really gets you going because it engages your humanity and probably touches your soul. Now you are really getting a great bang for your buck from that is simply teaching you how to be.

And if you want to knock it down to a more utilitarian sense...fiction blows out your vocabulary and allows you to connect the dots quicker and understand situations faster that your non novel reading friends. So you can make the sale, get the friend, win the girl, and appear witty, conversant, and more than all that, well read.

What more can you ask of a book? Or a Kindle?

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"You quickly saw your ability to speak when reading fiction shoot up."

Apparently it does nothing for writing, however. Q.E.D.
Hooray for fiction!
Mr. Hazelgrove, could you post the link to the NYTimes article here? I just went looking for it and couldn't find it.
It is in the sunday review section. Third article
Well put! Doing the work we do in South Africa we are constantly given the "task" of reading periodicals, papers, and nonfiction books pertaining to the areas we are in. At night I retreat to the delicious naughtiness and escape of fiction... the beautiful, deliberate story that someone is telling me, that unfolds in my brain and brings the backdrops and settings that they have created all for my enjoyment. Ahhhh....