January 8th, 2007


critical feeling

Today I stumbled over an inequity in our phrasing. Though we may say "I'm gonna think about this" or "I'm thinking this over," we never say "I'm gonna feel about this" or "I'm feeling this over." We describe intellectually ruminating over things, but not emotionally ruminating over things. "Thinking" always implies testing out different ideas, with an openness to various possibilities, whereas "feeling" denotes a single, knee-jerk flavor: "I'm feeling sad"..."I'm feeling happy"... "I'm feeling scared"....

This poses a problem for my descriptions of why I enjoy fiction. Readers and filmgoers often say,"I enjoy stories that make me think," but I do not enjoy stories that make me think. This isn't because I dislike thinking, but because there are other, better ways to get me thinking, such as nonfiction. From fiction I expect something else. I want stories that make me feel. But I don't want any particular feeling, like happy or sad, or even exotic flavors like ambivalent or melancholic or whimsical. For that, I have memories. Instead, I want stories that make me ruminate emotionally. I want to taste-test a gamut of emotional flavors. I don't want to give stories a good, long think. I want to give them a good, long feel.

Alas, that just sounds pornographic.