I recognized it instantly. It was a made-up story, a fantasy, the tale of four kids who went through a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a strange new world. I'd read it more times than I could remember, and although I sneered at the thought of a magical land with friendly, talking animals, there were times when I wished, in my most secret moments, that I could find a hidden door that would take us allout of this place.
It is untrue that fiction is nonutilitarian. The uses of fiction are synonymous with the uses of literature. They include refreshment, clarification of life, self-awareness, expansion of our range of experiences, and enlargement of our sense of understanding and discovery, perception, intensification, expression, beauty, and understanding. Like literature generally, fiction is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, beauty, and understanding. If it is all these things, the question of whether it is a legitimate use of time should not even arise.
I read a lot. I always have, but in those two years I gorged myself on books with a voluptuous, almost erotic gluttony. I would go to the local library and take out as many as I could, and then lock myself in the bedsit and read solidly for a week. I went for old books, the older the better--Tolstoy, Poe, Jacobean tragedies, a dusty translation of Laclos--so that when I finally resurfaced, blinking and dazzled, it took me days to stop thinking in their cool, polished, crystalline rhythms.
Jude leaped out of arm's reach, and walked along the trackway weeping--not from the pain, though that was keen enough; not from the perception of the flaw in the terrestrial scheme, by which what was good for God's birds was bad for God's gardener; but with the awful sense that he had wholly disgraced himself before he had been a year in the parish, and hence might be a burden to his great-aunt for life.