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That the novel is a stimulus to the imaginative faculties when the supply of energy falls short, was stressed by Mr. Basil King in a recent interview with a CRIMSON reporter. Mr. King believes that the novel is coming once more into public life after the long lapse of public interest since the beginning of this century.
"The place of the novel in life", he said, "is to stimulate the imagination when the supply of imaginative energy falls short. That deficiency makes itself evident in all our lives in proportion to the drain on our faculties by outside duties. Everybody knows the feeling of vacancy, inefficiency, and even inaptitude, which comes when one's imaginative stock has run low. That is the time when he wants to read a novel, to see a play, or to go to a motion picture. The superficial feeling is that he does it because he is bored, just as the superficial feeling when we eat is that we do it because we are hungry; but in the one case as in the other, the fundamental impulse is to do certain things to meet certain needs. We eat to live physically; we turn to imaginative food to live mentally.
Imaginative Food to Millions
Now, the need of the novel or of any other form of creative literature is less keenly felt during those periods in life or history in which general events stimulate the imaginative faculties by their very nature. We have seen this ever since the twentieth century began. We had first the motor car with its tremendous enhancement of life. Every man who took a twenty or thirty mile spin had his imaginative range broadened. He had less need to sit by the fire and read an imaginative book. By the time the motor car had ceased to be a novelty, the Great War came on, making all imaginative efforts seem thin and pale. Except to get away from the thought of violence it was almost difficult to read a novel between 1914 and 1918. By the time we were sick of war and its terrific drama, the motion picture came, also bringing the measure of stimulation. With all that can be said against the screen play, the fact remains that it has brought imaginative food to the millions and millions of those who never had it heretofore.
Action and Interaction
In proportion as the imagination is stimulated by other means, the novel ceases to have its former sphere of action. The situation may be classed as economic. It is a question of action and interaction. In proportion as one medium supplies a need, another medium is taxed less stringently. At the same time, there will always be a place for the novel in literature and life, so long as life is lived by story-loving human beings, and literature is produced by them. Signs are, indeed, not lacking that as the motor car, the airplane, the motion picture, cease to be novelties, and the war, for the present at least, seems a theme too sickening to dwell on overmuch, the novel is returning to some of the old function as the chief stimulus to those who feel the imaginative force waning.
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