"I have a hard time enjoying fictional characters when I’m feeling dreary towards the people who inhabit my real life," he writes. "When I think about these recent months, and other times in my life when fiction has held less appeal, it occurs to me that a yen for fiction is something like my canary in the coal mine, an early indication, when it’s ebbs, that something else is wrong."
Interesting. Now I've never had my interest in fiction disappear; it's always what I gravitate to when I want to read. Sure, I don't start a lengthy novel like Wolf Hall unless I know I have big chunks of time ahead of me (say, for example, a weeklong Herald-mandated furlough, which means I'm too broke to do much else). But I think back, and I have to say I'm never not in the mood for fiction. It's nonfiction that I have to consciously steer myself toward. For me, it's simple: Do I have time to pick up something I've been wanting to read - say, Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden or Dave Eggers' What is the What - and spend enough time with them to get caught up? If the answer's "yes," I read fiction. (Hint: it's usually "yes.")
Hartnett reaches a different and much more interesting conclusion: "The more I’m engaged with life—and particularly with other people—the more I want to read fiction. At the peak of a wedding reception or in the throes of a night out when the crowd has given itself over to celebration, I often want to sneak off and read a novel. It’s a contradictory impulse, to want to retreat into a book at the precise moment I am most enthralled with life, but such are the circumstances we live by. What I’m after, I think, is a kind of synergy that can only happen when I approach a novel while my body is still charged with the feeling of being present and alive."