I grew up on fiction like All of a Kind Family, and The Borrowers, and Little House on the Prairie. I was so captivated by Laura Ingalls that I used to wear a mop cap to bed and a long dress during the day. I imagined being like the Mouse and the Motorcycle, zooming in and out of holes in the baseboards, drinking from a thimble and sleeping in a matchbox. That love of story transferred into writing poems and peculiar little stories, and then bigger stories, and then term papers and essays.
Somewhere along the line–possibly when I started having children of my own and could only squeeze in a few seconds of reading at a time before someone needed fed or woke from a nap–I switched from reading primarily fiction to nonfiction. For awhile, I lost a desire to read anything more than a devotion or chapter-length piece. That’s all I had time for, really.
When my youngest went off to first grade, I picked up my pen and started writing again. Even though I found myself writing nonfiction, at the same time I studied story knowing that words did no good if they didn’t captivate. I began to use concepts of storytelling in my work as a nurse to help patients retain important information about caring for chronic health conditions. I used principles of story when I wrote for newspapers and magazines.
And I realized with renewed fervor that the world spins with the energy of story.
I started devouring fiction again…Francine Rivers. Catherine Marshall. Ron Rash and Kaye Gibbons. Kathyrn Stockett and Barbara Kingsolver and Billie Letts and many, many, many more.
I have novels on my nightstand and in my car, on my floor and in the kitchen.
I have a list of over 200 hundred novels I want to read, and another hundred to add to that.
I can’t get enough story.
There are times in our lives–like when I was busy with three precious toddlers–when it’s really hard to read. Even when we do find the time, we fall asleep mid-paragraph because we’re exhausted. But at the end of the day, I believe we all crave story.
Facts and soundbites, memoir and rhetoric, tweets and posts are all well and good.
But if we’re really looking for the freedom that comes from dreaming of faraway lands and faraway hope, for the sort of truth that comes from a walk and not just a talk, then what we’re really looking for is story.
Triumph over chaos.
Not to mention the characters–oh, the characters!--like Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield, Holly Golightly and Scarlett O’Hara, Scout and The Cat in the Hat, Frog and Toad, Dr. Zhivago and Peter Pan, Aslan and Anna Karenina and Charlotte the Spider and Wilbur the Pig and Winn Dixie and Skeeter and so many more who are each imagined by one and brought to life by the hundreds of thousands who read them.
What do you think about story, dear reader?
Do you prefer fiction over nonfiction?
Do you agree with what John Cheever says, below?
What’s your favorite story?