I am a big fan of the “Game of Thrones” series, and I recently read an interview with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin in Rolling Stone magazine. He said something both interesting and disturbing. He talks about the fact that some of the things he read as a child — “parties on Gatsby’s lawn” or “the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock” are more real to him than things he actually lived.
He goes on to say: “If we are the sum of our experiences, as I believe we are, then books are a more important part of my life than my actual life. That’s what I try to do with my own fiction: Fill the stories with imaginary people who will become more real to my readers than the people in their lives.”
I completely understand an author’s motivation for creating vivid and memorable characters. Of course, an author would love to have this sort of lasting impression on readers. However, as a reader, I wonder, “Do I want my fictional escapes to be more vivid and real to me than my actual experiences and the people in my life? And if my fictional escapes are more vivid and lasting, what kind of real-life experiences and relationships am I lacking?
Of course, the influence of fiction on our lives doesn’t end with books. We are a culture immersed in numerous forms of entertainment and escape — television, movies, commercials, Youtube videos, etc. Many children spend more time in front of a screen than they do playing outside. So, what will be their childhood memories?
I’m reminded of the lyrics in a Goo Goo Dolls song: “Reruns all become our history.”