Narration

1. Last week I went to the movies and saw Hope Springs. It features Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a married ageing couple who visit a sex therapist (Steve Carell), and I recommend it only if you don’t mind cringing. A lot. At one point in the movie, the therapist is seeing the wife on her own, and he says to her “This will help with your anxiety” while jotting something down on a piece of paper. I expected it to be benzodiazepines of some sort, but instead she goes to the book store, and asks for Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man (it’s a real book!). The results are… well. I won't spoil the ending for you.

2. A couple of weeks ago I presented a paper at the Social Psych Journal Club (also held on a Friday, but in the afternoon and with wine), called Changing Beliefs and Behaviour Through Experience-Taking (pdf; thanks Michael, for sending it to me!). It is about the way “works of fiction often let us experience the life journeys of people from backgrounds and identity groups quite different from our own, opening our eyes and minds to the unique struggles and triumphs of individuals we may not otherwise have the opportunity or inclination to encounter in our daily lives.” It was a fascinating paper, and the examples the researchers draw on – from Catcher in the Rye to A Chorus Line – stirred up discussion and whetted my appetite for reading more fiction.

3. Big Think have an article called Anxious? Depressed? Literate? Try Bibliotherapy. It is about a program set up by Alain de Botton’s “School of Life”, through which “individuals struggling in any aspect of their lives” are matched after an initial consultation “with a list of books hand-selected to help them through tough times”. I think it’s a neat idea, but I’m surprised that the article doesn’t mention that it’s not exactly a new idea. (I can’t play the video though, so maybe de Botton himself talks about the history of it.) I’m sure “bibliotherapy” covers all manner of sins and pseudo/scientific approaches to mental malaise, but google ngram tells me that the word has been in use since the ‘40s. The idea itself is of course older – how could it not be, when the printing press was invented in the 15th century!

4. “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden. And in contrast, here are some thoughts about Susan Sontag’s thoughts about aphorisms.

5. If asked to narrate your life, how would you do it? This article reflects on the topic, and this one, from storyteller Jonah Lehrer, makes me feel less bad about the spoiler coming up.

6. We’re going to introduce a new segment to this blog. It’s called The Moral of the Story, and will be about morality in popular fict- no, in whatever fiction we happen to be reading and wanting to write about.

Happy reading!

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