Friday, February 17, 2017

Reading as Escape and Relief

by Linda Rodriguez

Like many people, I wake in the morning dreading the new horrors the day will bring us from Washington, DC. Last week, I actually had to go to DC for a conference, and while there, I picked up some nasty respiratory bug. So I'm home now, in pain, exhausted, and weak from the long drive to DC and back, as well as the strains of getting around a massive conference in a huge and inaccessible conference center, and miserable with fever, coughing, and inability to breathe. I'm in no shape to read about more outrages against the Constitution and our entire democratic system. So I've been turning away from the media and all news.

Instead I've picked up a novel on my tottering TBR pile and spent the day pampering myself while I read that book. For a span of hours, I lived in another reality altogether, one as grim in some ways but with amazing adventures and fascinating backgrounds that took me completely out of my sinus-infected, exhausted, and in-considerable-pain self and the democracy-under-attack world we're living in at present. For that span of hours, I found relief from pain, illness, and the depression that Cheeto Hitler's accession to power has brought to the entire civilized world.

I think we tend to forget that novels can offer a kind of medicine to us, a remedy for the unpleasantness and despair of politics and welcome relief from pain and sickness. We often hear genre novels dismissed with the term, “mere escape.” But there's nothing mere about escape when it lifts you out of overwhelming grief or unbearable pain or the miseries of acute and chronic illnesses. At such times, escape can be a true lifesaver, allowing rest and healing to take place when both had seemed impossible.

So I don't want to hear any more cracks about the escapism of genre novels. Escape in times of trouble, even temporary escape, can truly be just what's needed. If my novels provide someone with a few hours' escape from great pain or fear or grief or stress, I will be happy to have provided those hours of relief to my readers.


  1. Oh yes, escape and hope, as characters fight and prevail against all odds, we can strengthen our own resolve. I've discovered storyteller Joseph Bruchac's YA books recently -- fighting for good is very heartening. Sending Healing Light and hugs. <3
    “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton

  2. Absolutely, Mary! Hope is something we really need right now.

  3. Sending healing thoughts your way. I'm reading Into the Lion's Mouth: The true story of Dusko Popov, World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond.

  4. Thanks, Margaret! Yes, derring-do and the triumph over evil--so satisfying!

  5. Agreed, Linda . . . there's nothing like a good book to carry me away in times of illness or trouble. Wonderful post!

  6. C.T., I'm glad you liked it. Yes, a good book is great good medicine.

  7. The human brain is designed for living in the reality of fictional contemplation. It's necessary to survival. Without this ability we could not, plan, review, or work though problems purposefully. And if we don't do it consciously, the brain has provided us with dreams during sleep. Fiction is good for us.

  8. I feel the same way about my books. They are all over the house, and I like it that way.


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