Wish I’d written this!
Catherine Shoard writes:
This week a study by Durham University revealed that a fifth of readers have experienced characters in novels hopping off the page to accompany them in everyday life. One poor respondent described “feeling enveloped” by Mrs Dalloway, “hearing her voice and imagining her response to particular situations, such as walking into a Starbucks”. As if queueing for a coffee wasn’t bad enough without stream-of-consciousness insights from a depressed socialite.
No such study would be required for filmgoers. Movies sell themselves on our embrace of the blur. Audiences trot to the cinema eager to catch up with role models, sexual fantasies, touchstones. And this, of course, is why celebrity deaths prove such catnip: we have appropriated these people into our lives. Their careers are like mixtapes for our own histories.
When they die, we’re sad for them and their families, but we’re mostly sad for ourselves: our own pasts, our own projections. If the day comes when Ford’s mid-air accidents become rather less funny, people will be grieving less for an independent being than for a man some wanted to be, some to sleep with, some to be fathered by – some all three.
If we’re a fan, the death of someone famous allows us to feel we have personal investment in the news. If we’re a fan who has gone to the lengths of actually meeting them, even fleetingly, this feeling is amplified. If we have actual photographic proof of such an encounter, our mourning is permitted to be as intense as it might for a real-life friend on Facebook.