Observing in the narrative world

I just finished this called Best Friends, by Thomas Berger, today and I was trying to put my finger on something about why we like to read, or go to the movies, or watch TV.  I was tempted to call it (and actually began to writeabout) artificial voyeurism, or something to that effect.  But it doesn’t quite fit because voyeurism suggests something of the gaining of sexual arousal and pleasure from observing others.  I don’t think we like reading a good book just to get off (well maybe some people do, I mean everybody has their own kink right?) but I do think that a big part of why we have books, and movies, and plays with all sorts of characters is because we are all into the observation of people.  It is just weird because even if we are reading, say, a biography, which we are assuming to be based on facts, we are not actually observing an actual person.  We are interacting with portrayals.  Evenat best we are looking through a single filter (that being one other persons viewing and interpreting) if not more.  It gets even stranger when dealing with fiction in that the characters possess no reality in the real world, they are just made up.  I guess maybe there is a reason that Reality TV and Documentaries manage to attract such attention.  Because even though both these media forms are constructed and produced (and they are, hate to break it to you all but Reality TV isn’t all that real) they give off the sense that we (the audience) are actually being first hand observers.  Is it human nature to long to observe other humans?  Do we read or go to the movie, to a certain degree, because we desire the observation, even if that which we observe is fictional?  Huh.  I don’t know, but it interests me.

Best Friends was the first Thomas Berger book I’ve ever read and I liked it a lot.  It is a really interesting slice of life that seems to really dive into the whole idea of what makes people best friends.  The book is very concise and compact (only 209 pages long) but I didn’t feel rushed in it at all.  I was particularly interested in the way that Berger really makes you expect certain things but that you find yourself still  surprised when they happen and other times when they don’t happen at all or something entirely different occured.  If you are looking for a good quick read I’d recommend Best Friends, as I found it very enjoyable.

~ by Nathaniel on December 18, 2007.

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