Reading fiction is normally associated with pursuits of escapism, venturing off to far-off lands, dislocating your imagination from reality, taking a cerebral vacation, or as Marion Garretty puts it “A book is a chance to try on a different life for size”. A book is the perfect portal to transport oneself to preferable climes, especially when it is snowing in March!
What if, though, fiction was used as the tonic rather than the escape route when we are all feeling a little troubled, blue or downcast? I came across this article in the New York Observer which speaks to this question. At the Centre of Fiction, they run a program called A Novel Approach that has a team of ‘bibliotherapists’ who will prescribe you with a year’s worth of reading after a 45-minute consultation. The dialogue between the patient and the bibliotherapist in the article goes from the comical, when they discuss the root of the patient’s unhappiness, to the surreal when the patient answers which literary figures he would have over for a dinner party.
After said consultation the patient receives a reading list as a prescription with instructions, “No more than one per month, client to be shaken and stirred.” Would you ever be tempted to see a bibliotherapist? Or do you prefer to self-medicate?