When my son was little (he’s 15 now), I sometimes performed simple magic tricks for him. It was fun, you know, watching his amazement as a quarter seemed to disappear from my hand or a hat seemed to levitate from the top of my head. He always asked, “How did you do that, Daddy?” When I showed him the secret, he said, “Oh!” He invariably wanted to try the trick himself. Knowing the secret was even more fun than not knowing it. Now, he was the magician.
As a writer, the same holds true for me with regard to reading. Even though I’m aware of what an author is doing, and even though I sometimes analyze the prose, plot, character development, etc., reading has not lost its magic for me. When an author is doing everything right, I can still become entranced and lose myself in the story. I can still experience what John Gardner called The Fictional Dream, even though I know all the tricks. For me, it’s one of the great pleasures of being alive. If reading somehow stopped being fun, I’m not sure I would even want to write anymore.
How about some of you other magicians out there? Is reading fiction still fun? Can you still kick back and be mesmerized by the show, even knowing the craft behind it all?