A defence of fiction

Jean Morley doesn’t take kindly to critics of fiction, oh no.



“But, I dunno, the more I read books, the more they seem to be telling me to stop reading and to live life. It’s all a bit pointless”. Oh dear. That’s another person off the Christmas card list. “Who’s that?” you wonder. “The utterer of this most profane blasphemy?” A first-year I heard talking in the arts block last week. Abercrombied and Fitched, leaning, bored against the wall, she had somehow managed to summate the pointlessness of my entire college existence in five seconds. Books are dumb. That statement, perhaps coupled with her perfect, voluminous blonde mane, has meant she will not be the happy recipient of my handicrafts this yuletide. Oh no sir-ee. Like a bee drenched in nettle juice and fried in onions, that comment stung. I limped to the library in despair.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those Lord of the Rings types. I don’t believe the most important thing is to get to the Mountain of Farraquad to capture Sir Elwich before the avengers of the Lost Ark Elf Brigade storm the Western Front. Or whatever else those long-haired fellows get up to on their days off. Yes, there are times when no book – nothing – could fills the meaningless void that is five o’clock on a Sunday afternoon better than a flick through Glamour magazine. Who needs stories when you have beautiful, sweet ads? Oh, lots of them – so many colours – and shoes – Jimmy Choos…

But no, for the vast majority of the week, books surpass it all. That whole “real life” escapade they’ve been talking about on the airwaves. Apparently, there’s a recession looming, the banks have been bailed out and major low-budget airlines are going broke.

But where you say, “Goodbye cheap flights to Bratislava,” I say, “Hello Narnia.” Who needs Ireland when you can have Neverland? I’m not talking about the back-garden of an ageing songster but a land full of lost boys where you, never, ever, have to grow old. No, seriously, keep Michael Jackson out of this. Catch a falling star, put it in your pocket and for goodness sake, fly away to a parallel universe.

Good old fiction. A place where balding old ladies DO turn out to be witches. Where tall, brooding, wealthy men who refuse to dance DO turn out to have been harbouring marital expectations (although, in these current times, he might need an extra few bob under the mattress and the security of a pension fund). A land where the most savvy first years DO turn out to be wrong. Oh and where books are cool.