I read British, Catholic, Conservative, Homosexual witer, editor, blogger Andrew Sullivan every day. I don't agree with him very often, but he's one of the most intelligent, insightful, fair & honest scribblers on the Net. The following, brazenly stolen from his blog is as good a reason why I put up with the stuff I find off-putting. This post is a gem.
"[The novel] is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathise with other lives and sorrows. It teaches compassion, the ability to 'feel with' others. And, like mythology, an important novel is transformative ... If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest. If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythical lore, our artists and creative writers can perhaps step into this priestly role and bring fresh insight to our lost and damaged world," - Karen Armstrong, "A Short History of Myth."