Henry George Todd,
oil on canvas, 1880.
While shuffling through leaves yesterday, came across a blog post by C. S. Harris who writes mysteries, thrillers, and historical romances and who had an interesting essay about -- Aboutness.
(Perhaps I should mention - in the interests of disclosure - that while Harris is an old and noble name, it is legion, and she is no relation to my husband.)
Aboutness is a casually-coined term used to define the appeal of fiction that allows a sneak peek, satisfies a certain curiosity about society and inner systems, or conducts a refined form of expose.
Novels that leave the reader feeling they're learned something.
Best-selling writer Arthur Hailey immediately leaps to mind as an older and obvious example from mainstream fiction: Hotel, Airport, Wheels, The Moneychangers, etc.
As a recent example, Pat Wood's Lottery also educates without coercion.
While we may have an instinctive aversion to a teach 'n preach type of story, it seems we are suckers for indirect and facsimile education.
Pain-free learning. A window we can open and close at will.
And exploitation of this human trait is not restricted necessarily to writers of mainstream or commercial fiction, though it may be more difficult in genre novels, apart from historicals, to isolate and identify the learning appeal .
Consider for a moment the curious lure of Interview With a Vampire.
Something to think about.
Groaner Q & A:
Q: Why do gorillas have big nostrils?
A: Because they have big fingers.