Courtesy of Vinay:
There’s a new study showing that the brain responds to narrative stories by simulating the action in the story:
This strikes me as a bit of an example of a scientific study proving the logically obvious (they do that a lot, in my opinion), but still interesting to think about in relation to my concrete reading experiences.
When I’m absorbed in a good book, I have genuine emotional responses to what I’m reading – I cry if a character I love dies, I squirm and feel horribly embarrassed for the teenager doing the stupid things I did when I was 15, etc. And generally (for fiction) the better the book, the less intellectual and more visceral the response. If I’m really identifying with a character, I feel what they feel — which is why its so important that characters’ thoughts and emotions are written realistically, because when they aren’t it jolts you right out of the experience – what you’re personally experiencing as you read the book is suddenly disjointed from what the character is experiencing.
There’s of course a lovely escapism in leaving my world for a fictional one, of being totally removed from wherever I am for a while. And I guess that’s how certain books can always calm me down (WINNIE THE POOH, especially if I can’t sleep) or cheer me up (HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON). But there are also certain books where I like to match my mood, rather than escape it, and it works as a bit of an excorcism. The ultimate for me is ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY when I’m feeling cranky for no reason and can’t snap out of it.
Anyway, enough rambling by me — anyone want to share thoughts on a) this study or b) books that you use for specific, mood-related purposes?