So Identity. So hit it. It just might change your life. Excerpt? Word.
In what way do you think literature has the ability to change the way people live their lives?
I’m not convinced that it does, though I’d like to believe. I get
hopeful when studies come out showing how fiction lights up the parts of
the brain associated with empathy—one study
was in the news just in the last few days—and of course that
relationship between text and reader is what sets fiction apart from
more passively-enjoyed arts like film. In fiction you’re able to share a
consciousness with someone else for a time…but does that really make
for a more empathetic person? Even if readers have a greater ability to
understand and connect with others’ points of view, I’m still not sure
they have any greater inclination to do so in real life. If anything,
fiction maybe allows for the opposite revelation—when you read a novel
or story, from your part of the world or from another, from today or a
century ago, and suddenly you realize, Someone out there knows what it’s like to be me.
There’s not just a wonderful surprise but a relief in that. I don’t
know if that changes the way you live your life, but at least it
reassures you that you’re not as alone as you thought.