A Mildly Embarrassed Philistine

AuthorRobert McKay
DateJanuary 12, 2016

A while ago I found myself basking in the sun beside a swimming pool, with not a great deal troubling me. The anxiety-free break had allowed me with pleasure to work my way through an interesting and informative biography and the moment was right quickly to find another book to read. Scouring through the available literature my attention was captured immediately by a highly regarded legal/crime novel by a well-known author and I immediately settled down for a relaxing read. Not the fault of the book or its author, I am convinced, but several pages in I began to become frustrated with it. I just wasn’t in the mood to read about the various fictional characters’ thoughts, feelings and emotions, the in-depth descriptions of their pasts that had brought them to the moment in question, the décor of the rooms and so on. I wanted to get on somewhat to the core of the story and to the outcome. Before too long I gave up on that book and picked up another but my problem persisted. My temperament not being right, on closing the second book I declared to my companions that I was done with fiction, that I prefer to read non-fiction for useful and entertaining information purposes and am otherwise happy with cinema, television, radio and theatre.

All nonsense, of course as however much of a philistine I most certainly am, it would be absurd to write off the medium of well-written fiction other than in a moment of frustration. I recognise equally the pointlessness of seeking to compare media that are simply not comparable. However, the experience set me thinking, however, about why both in career and general terms my preference is with law books (in all delivery media) and other sources of information of that ilk. The ultimately impossible search for objective information, some notion of facts, solutions and outcomes appeals to me more than the imagination and experiences of even talented fiction writers, the clue perhaps being in the word “fiction”; I prefer real. I was reminded also when as a law student much of my time was spent with particular friends whose field of study was psychology. Although it was more entertaining to sit in bars discussing the merits of psychology versus law as academic disciplines, rather than attend tutorials on the latter subject, I knew I was in the right place. My friends reminded me that they were interesting and open-minded divergent thinkers who benefited from limitless imagination and seeing possibility everywhere, while I was a...

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