Why "fluff reading" is important
Many may refer to pulp books (or "non-intellectual" literature) as "fluff," as they contain less intellectual burdens. Fluff books are often easier and more fun to read than intellectual dissertations. There's a stigma against this type of reading. Fluff reading. While I submit to the fact that you get less intellectual value out of these books, there's still an emotional and empathetic value in reading these types of books. Joseph Campell, in his writings about the archetypes in the Hero's Journey, must've understood why so many stories take up the format of the hero's journey.
Why do we love the hero's story? I found my answer binge-watching this TV show Westworld (an American Science-Fiction Western Thriller Series about a theme park which embodies the idea of creating your own adventure/story). At one point in an episode, a character explains why people come back to the theme park ("Westworld") all the time.
This is my reasoning for why people come back to the "fluff." Because there's something really, really human about it. And I'm not going to get into the archetypal collective-subconscious bullshit, but I am going to mention that there's this idea in linguistics of a "Transformational Generative Grammar," which is science for a fundamental grammar/language among humans. Since, as humans, we can only make a certain amounts of grunts with our lungs, and a certain amount of sounds with our mouths, we can boil down human expression in language to one fundamental grammar compiled of phonemes and morphemes. It's why the International Phonetic Alphabet works. I'd reckon that there's a fundamental reason why we appreciate the fluff, the emotional, and the non-logical. And maybe that reason, whatever it may be, is why Neil Gaiman prefers to write unsolved mysteries and abstract concepts, and why we find them so compelling and heart-wrenching.
I have quoted this before, maybe even twice, but I keep returning to it.
Dostoevsky, in his philosophical novel The Idiot, criticizes the concept of "just living life rationally." He argues that even if we had the knowledge of how to lead an infallibly satisfying lifestyle, we would not choose rationally to live this way. The idiot in his story is this guy who was kept away from the corruption of the outside world, and only taught to think rationally and morally. Everyone thinks he's an idiot because of his simplicity and positivity.
At the beginning of this year I sunk into this sadness. I was reminded frequently of the simple joys of gardening or hanging out with friends, but whenever I tried them myself, I just found myself more lost in the notion of happiness. And as I descended into more and more theoretical quandaries, I felt more and more lost. At the beginning of the year—and you can check my first article for 11th grade—I despised the notion of "tending to one's own garden." I felt this anger at my father, who argued this against me, as he did not understand anything about the situation I was in. He does this annoying thing where he deconstructs my arguments based upon one word or concept, derailing the entire conversation. It frustratedly reminds me of math class, where the students deliberately pull the teacher away from getting to the meat of how to solve an equation, and then complain when they don't understand how to solve the questions on the test. I feel bad whenever I can't answer the questions on the test, because I did not attempt to pull the teacher off-course, and—like an image I saw on the internet—did not want to teach myself the material.
We begin to think like this:
"Choose happiness" "Hang in there" "Don't worry" Sounds easy, right? An idiot could be happy. But that's just the point, isn't it? Only idiots are happy. Would you rather be an idiot, or unhappy? Because there's no way to be both. True love is a fantasy, only real in fairytales and fiction.
Why do people return to fluff books? "They want a glimpse of what they could be." It's pretty easy to be happy, actually. In fact, there are tons of articles on wikiHow on how to be confident or successful or happy. The only idiotic thing is that we're trapped into being unhappy. The word I'm looking for is velleity.
Yesterday, I started running again. It was really easy—all you do is jog until you feel like you don't want to jog, and then jog anyways until you actually can't jog anymore. When you do that, you realize that you can actually jog for way longer than you initially thought—and initially wanted to. Instead of developing leg muscles you develop willpower, or something. You get the idea. But there was the weirdest, most unusual effect: When I first started jogging, I felt self-conscious when cars passed by me, but when I was jogging even though I wanted to stop it felt like I was the one actually doing something to be happy and didn't care if anyone was looking at me.
I think as a conclusion, choosing to read fluff is a choice that you make by yourself. You actively decide what type of story you'd like to read: fantasy, sci-fi, etc. Sure, you may pick up a word to "add to your intellectual vernacular" or whatever, but this reading is for you. You respect yourself by not binge-watching TV, and learn how to like spending time alone. I'd compare reading fluff to running for yourself: you really do learn to think for yourself and develop willpower.