Fantastic references. I find that the "intellectual half life" of great books is always worth the investment. Read a good article, you're lucky to reference it in your mind more than a week later. Read a great book, and you have the ideas forever available in your mind.

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From the review of Submission by The Social Pathologist:

"... Islam achieves a victory in France and makes strides into Northern Europe as well. Houellebecq's realises that Islam does not need to conquer by force, all it needs to do is fill the vacuum as the ability to resist it has gone."

But remember the film, No Country for Old Men: it wasn't the scary psychopath antagonist who finally did the protagonist in, it was the professionals at the very end.

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Thanks Aaron, this is interesting.

While I'm a voracious reader, I don't think I've read a novel since high school. I suppose I struggle to see the purpose of it -- reading such a long and padded telling of a single story, when I could have instead become educated on an entire topic about which I was previously ignorant.

If we're interested in a search for truth, then we should be pretty wary of any ideas that we are persuaded by as a result of reading novels, as opposed to real observations about the real world. Though perhaps it just helps you to articulate and distill certain half-formed ideas in your mind?

Now, I can see that fiction has a value in illustrating certain truths to children, who are going to respond much more strongly to stories than to dry descriptive prose.

Reading fiction of another time or place is also interesting as a historical study. In the search for truth, it also gives you a glimpse into what ideas and experiences are universal and timeless, and which are idiosyncratic to our own contemporary moment. But that's something very different from what a contemporary novel does for us.

Of course, being familiar with certain fiction can also be a marker of intellectual prestige. Or it can be needed simply to get along and understand frequent references and allusions in certain social circles. Though these days being familiar with certain TV shows is probably more important, even among highly educated elites, than being familiar with Shakespeare or something.

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