A reason to read, one that I do not keep in mind as often as I would like, is to be prepared for the unexpected occurrence of all sorts of potentially devastating events, such as those that occur in Shakespeare or in Alice Munro’s short stories.
If crazy things can happen in literature, they can happen in life, too. And if you read about it first, and see how others screwed up, then you might be able to avoid repeating those same mistakes. But, sometimes I get too distracted by emotions or unimportant details to bring literature into the moment and use its stories in a practical way. I consider this a needless waste of all those hours spent reading.
In the passage above, from Munro’s story “Tricks,” a character who is highly dependent upon Shakespeare’s plays, misses all the tell-tale (literally) signs and, as a result, ends up missing a shot at love. A reader could say: “Oh, well, such is life.” Except that in this case it is not. It’s fiction. And a way to keep fact and fiction from intersecting at an undesirable point is to learn from the blunders of literature’s abundantly clumsy characters.
Read Cartagena 2014