I'm currently working my way through Robert Eaglestone's essay collection, Reading The Lord of the Rings: New Writings on Tolkien's Classic and came across the following quote from Jay Bolter's Writing Spaces (1991):
Losing oneself in a fictional world is the goal of the naive reader or one who reads as entertainment. (11) [quoted p.152]And my mind boggled. The primary reason that anyone reads fiction is surely for entertainment, isn't it ? Or am I, as Bolter claims, simply being naive ? Even as a "critic", the main reason I have for reading is entertainment - reading is something I really enjoy doing. Don't get me wrong, I've learned a lot over 35 years of being a reader from reading fiction (as well as from non-fiction), but that's not why I read fiction. As I tell people who ask me what I do, when I answer that I'm a writer who writes "literary criticism" (and I do put it in quotes), I am still, first and foremost, a reader and as such, I won't write about any book I didn't enjoy reading and re-reading. I'm not in college, being forced to write essays to earn course credits, therefore I can freely choose to only write about the books I've enjoyed reading and re-reading - hence, Harry Potter and Tolkien are the two subjects about which I've most often written since I graduated.
As for immersing oneself in a fictional world, why on earth would any writer go to the trouble of creating a secondary world (or recreating a historical one) if not with the intention of having their readers immerse themselves in it ? Even contemporary novels often require the reader to immerse themselves in a world with which they're unfamiliar, be that the world of high-tech crime fighting, the world of the secret agent, the world of being a teacher, or a librarian, or a housewife, or a mother, or some other world that is not the reader's world. Why would a write bother to describe their fictional world (even when it's based on a real-life one) in any detail if they did not expect their readers to immerse themselves in it ?
So am I being naive in thinking we read fiction for entertainment, first and foremost ? Why do you read ?