Robert Louis Stevenson: “The Most Influential Books, and the Truest in Their Influence, Are Works of Fiction”

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay “The Books Which Have Influenced Me”:

The most influential books, and the truest in their influence, are works of fiction. They do not pin the reader to a dogma, which he must afterwards discover to be inexact; they do not teach him a lesson, which he must afterwards unlearn. They repeat, they rearrange, they clarify the lessons of life; they disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the acquaintance of others; and they show us the web of experience, not as we can see it for ourselves, but with a singular change–that monstrous, consuming ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out. To be so, they must be reasonably true to the human comedy; and any work that is so serves the turn of instruction. But the course of our education is answered best by those poems and romances where we breathe a magnanimous atmosphere of thought and meet generous and pious characters.


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  2. leifkhayyam · March 24, 2012

    I like it but the best non-fiction pins no dogma. Must we choose sides? I would say that good non-fiction can also disengage us from ourselves and show us the web of experience through Unknown eyes.


  3. I HAVE A VOICE · March 24, 2012

    There’s always truth behind fictitious stories because we are humans with understanding that seeps out in our writing and conceptions. Fear is fear, LOVE is love but how we approach any emotion is personal.


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