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The Innocence of a Book [FRANKIE SAYS…]

Frankie says…

Try to pretend every now and then.

I heard this author speaking about her most recent book on NPR the other day. She was saying how her four main characters were so different, but were all really just pieces of her. I envied her ability to make things up, her obvious grasp on fiction – something I’ve never had when it comes to writing, nor in life for that matter.

I’m horrible at making things up, pretending I like people, masking my emotions. If I could just master that art of fiction, of make-believe and pretend, I do believe my life would be a lot easier… like when I was a child.

As a kid, I could read for hours, fictional tale upon fictional tale. And then I’d imagine myself as those characters – be it the damsel in distress or the charming go-getter busy bee. Now, I can’t even read fiction let alone pretend I’m part of it. And that’s sad. Really, it is. Why do we lose that ability to mimic our deepest and most secret desires?

I know that sounds like some soupy and metaphysical, stick-a-pipe-in-your-mouth kind of question, but it’s really been bothering me lately. This loss of innocence is weird, really. As we grow, we tend to think of how we gain things – boobs, bodily hair, money, wisdom, and many more things. There aren’t too many things that we lose, and by far the biggest of them is this ability to believe in fiction. I’m not talking about the ability to believe in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy, I’m talking about the ability to suspend our non-fiction lives for a few moments to enjoy, say, a fictional story from a book.

I think the only place I can even have a semblance of this ability nowadays is in a movie theater. But it used to be with books. This shift makes me weirdly nostalgic. I have a bookshelf full of books I haven’t read and just occasionally stare at. I’ll sometimes pull out one or two down and feel their covers, read the jackets, and put them back on the shelf. Instead I’ll stream the last episode of Mad Men I was on.

Am I deliberately not reading books anymore? I read The New Yorker (some of it every week, at least), I’ve just subscribed to Vanity Fair, which I know I’ll read a few of the articles from, and I have industry magazines I have to keep up on for work. So maybe it’s just that I’m all read out?

Whatever the reason is, I’m fairly sure I miss being a kid and the innocence that comes with it. I guess that was the whole point of this piece.

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featured image credit: mcbeth