Immersion is the goal. It doesn’t matter which medium you’re talking about. Art should suck you in, make you feel a part of another world so that you see its colors, feel its turmoil, and speak its tongues. In your mind, at least, the fiction should become the real. If that sounds more than a tad bit pretentious, know that the reality is hardly so glamorous and scholarly. Sometimes the immersion, if the art is enthralling enough, will make you seem a little bit crazy.
As evidence I present the following anecdote: when I was in middle school and The Sims came out, I sat at my iMac and played that game for hours and hours. By the time my bodily needs required me to leave Farty McButt alone in his virtual world (hey, I was in middle school – what did you think I’d name my Sim?), my thoughts read less like, “I have to pee,” and more like, “My bladder bar has turned red.” While that makes me sound like I might have been skipping out on a prescription or two, this is ultimately the type of immersion that gamers, and all consumers of art, want.
It might make me seem crazy, but I love that feeling of immersion. When I hear a good album I want to be compelled to drum out its rhythms on my desk or hum its melodies. When I read a good book, I want to put it down and find that I’m using the characters’s vernacular and slang. One of the million things I love about The Lord of the Rings? Every year when I read it, I find myself thinking in archaic, classical English – the book’s hold is so thorough that it manipulates my very thought process. I love that. (And yes, I am that special breed of nerd that reads The Lord of the Rings every year. Just…yes.)
All of which is to say that when I started reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas recently, I was thrilled to find the characters’ voices so vibrant, the fictional world so full of detail, the book itself so immersive. I couldn’t help but think in the strange dialects that Mitchell has created. I put the book down and stepped into my kitchen thinking, “A spesh snack’d go down wondersome tonite.” That’s immersion.
I’m not quite done with Cloud Atlas yet; I’ve likely got another day or two before I finish it up, but it’s hard not to recommend the book already, immersed as I am in its clouds.