Thursday, 28 August 2014

In Praise of Fiction and THE RISK OF READING

All of us  – writers, readers, teachers, parents, probation officers, managers, MPs and lawmakers - anyone who cares about our world should read THE RISK OF READINGby Bob Waxler

Avril has written on her blog about how she and I met and worked with Professor Bob Waxler on the absolutely seminal international project Changing Lives ThroughLiterature.  

Meeting Bob in Boston USA was inspirational and we related to his principles of the life-changing properties of reading stories which we were putting into practice in the prison where we worked.

There is something messianic about Bob. Even now, years later, he will say ‘Keep the faith!’ at the end of an email.

In his book Waxler argues that we need "fiction" to give our so-called "real life" meaning and that reading narrative fiction remains crucial to themaking of a humane and democratic society.

Waxler 100w
Robert P Waxler  
 University of Massachuset
Waxler’s book considers the importance of story in terms of "real life", The Risk of Reading focuses on human language, especially language shaped into narrative, and how such language is central to the human quest for identity.  

Waxler argues that we are "linguistic beings," and that reading literary narrative is a significant way to enrich and preserve the traditional sense of human identity and knowledge.

This is especially true in the midst of a culture which too often celebrates visual images, spectacle, electronic devices, and celebrity. Reading narrative, in other words, should be considered a counter-cultural activity crucial on the quest to "know thyself."

Reading literature is one of the best opportunities we have today to maintain a coherent human identity and remain self-reflective individuals in a world that seems particularly chaotic and confusing.

Our own work on this project was with men and women in prison. There we witnessed the transforming affect of whole narrative fiction in our project. (We read whole books, not bite-size pieces…It was not an O or A Level course in Literature...)

THE RISK OF READING made me think don't we too, on the outside, live in different kinds of prison? Narrative fiction has a strong role here too in restoring wholeness to our lives. It certainly did for me as a child and a girl who noadays would have been considered underprivileged

Reading narrative fiction feeds the brain, flowers the imagination, strengthens the empathy muscles in the individual. It could just save the world from self-immolation. 

Bob Waxler is interested in changing the world. And he might just do that through this important book.

Keep the faith! as Bob would say,

This book is out in November but can be pre-ordered now,. The very thing for some thoughtful person’s Christmas stocking, perhaps.

Links: I have written  elsewhere about this HERE and HERE 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your ongoing support, Wendy--and keep writing always



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