What types of fiction do you enjoy reading and why?
The reading of fiction is escapism, but not in any bad sense. To read is more positive than to watch television, because the visual nature of TV limits the imagination. Reading also excels radio listening, partly because the listener has no choice in the programs, and partly because the quality of radio programs is so uneven. There is a world of fiction available to occupy the reader's spare time, so much so that he or she can be ultra-selective in following personal taste. It is perhaps true to say that a good library is one of the finest assets a community can possess. Failing a library, paperbacks are usually available.
Reading opens windows on the world, whether past or present, and most people enjoy looking through these windows. Robert Graves' novels I, Claudius and Claudius the god reveal the Imperial Roman Empire, just as his Goodbye to all that reveals the horrors of the First World War. It may be this quality which distinguishes great from mediocre fiction. Tolstoy's War and Peace reveal the Napoleonic struggle, whereas Jane Austen's Persuasion being a study of the mannered relationships of early 18th century English country gentry merely gives the Napoleonic Wars a mention. So are we looking for people's reactions to a great sweep of national events, the sort we find in Pasternak's Dr Zhivago, with it's comments on the Russian system, or are we looking for an encapsulated set of personal relationships? Perhaps, from time to time, we enjoy both.
Our choice of fiction also depends on mood. Perhaps, after a hard day in the office, we need to read something out of this world. What about Mr. Clarke's space fiction? Or perhaps it is something light and amusing. There is a whole world of this kind of fiction. Again, tastes vary. For this writer, the Atlantic Ocean is a great divide as far as humor is concerned, just as the Australian reader would see nothing funny in an English novel which I think...