Friday News: Reading & empathy, Books on the Underground, every literary plot, and typewriters
Empathy by the Book: How Fiction Affects Behavior – According to studies by University of Toronto researchers, books can inspire feelings of empathy in their readers, but the response depends on the type of genre and story. Interestingly, Romance novels are not on the empathy-producing genres, but literary fiction is, perhaps because it provides the reader with an opportunity to experience “other people” from the inside out. Ongoing research seems to be narrowing the field even more, not focusing so much on genre but rather on type of storyline (e.g. “heartfelt stories”), and its effect on empathy and even charitable giving.
The researchers handed subjects—in groups ranging in size from 69 to 356—different types of genre fiction, literary fiction or nonfiction, or nothing to read at all. They then assessed participants on several measures of empathy. Nonfiction—along with horror, sci-fi or romance novels—had little effect on the capacity to detect others’ feelings and thoughts. Only literary fiction, which requires readers to work at guessing characters’ motivations from subtle cues, fostered empathy.
In these studies, the reading of nonfiction not only failed to spur empathy but also predicted loneliness and social isolation, specially among men. Of course, nonfiction reading has its virtues. Other research suggests that various kinds of nonfiction can prompt empathetic feelings—as long as the narrative is moving and transformative. – Wall Street Journal
Emma Watson Left Books in the New York City Subway After the Election – Just a week ago, Emma Watson was leaving copies of Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom in the London Underground, as part of Books on the Underground , and this week she is doing the same in the New York subway system as part of Books on the Subway. Each book includes a note asking readers to “take care of the book” and “pass it on” when they have finished reading it:
Watson picked the Angelou book for November and December reading for her online feminist book club, “Our Shared Shelf.” Watson said the book describes not only Angelou’s “evolution as a black woman but also in her feminist perspective, her independence and self-awareness, all of which contributed to her unique way of looking at the world.” – Travel & Leisure, BBC
An Encyclopedia of Every Literary Plot, Ever – Darlynne’s question yesterday led me on a short, fruitless search for an answer, but along the way I did find a couple of interesting posts. This one purports to summarize every plot written, organized alphabetically. Have they forgotten any? What’s your favorite?
How many plots are there in fiction? Millions, two, or 36, depending on whom you ask. There’s William Wallace Cook’s chart-crazy Plotto, first published in 1928; there’s crisp guides like Christopher Booker’s The Basic Seven Plots and Ronald B. Tobias’s 20 Master Plots; there’s even a couple of computer programs — many, over centuries, have tried to count the ways to tell a story. With a little help from those, here is a far-from-comprehensive encyclopedia of every archetypal plot we know. – Vulture
19 Authors and Their Typewriters – Considering that WordPress wanted to change the spelling of typewriter (removing the first “e” – heh), I am a little worried about how long the word is still going to exist, let alone the machine itself. Agatha Christie had some interesting thoughts on using different methods to write:
Agatha Christie got her start writing on her sister’s Empire typewriter, and after a failed experiment in dictation, she became most famously associated with a Remington Home Portable No. 2. But after breaking her wrist in a fall in 1952, she again was writing via dictaphone and a secretary. But Agatha missed the actual writing process, later saying, “There is no doubt that the effort involved in typing or writing does help me in keeping to the point. Economy of wording, I think, is particularly necessary in detective stories. You don’t want to hear the same thing rehashed three or four times over. But it is tempting when one is speaking into a dictaphone to say the same thing over and over again in slightly different words. Of course, one can cut it out later, but that is irritating, and destroys the smooth flow which one gets otherwise.” – Mental Floss