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Suspended Disbelief: The Beauty of the Arts


Suspended disbelief is a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,  a poet and aesthetic philosopher, who suggested that if a writer could infuse “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

I have known from a very young age that I love reading. I remember in my final year of high school, my second grade teacher (grade two for us South Africans) called me aside and proceeded to tell me about how I chose the biggest book to read in class, how she had to dissuade me from reading it.

I remember walking to the local library a couple of years later, the small square building located within walking distance from the school grounds, excited by the prospect of the kind of books I could find. Whether I would be able to read the entire Goosebumps collection by the end of the year was one of the pervading thoughts in that 10-20 minute walk. I remember leaving the library with a stack of books, seven in total, even though at that age we were not allowed to take more than three. I remember sitting under the stairs, lost within a fictional world while the rest of my peers played soccer during break-time.

Most of my youth was spent behind a book.

Reading as an Adult

Yesterday I sat in my car reading Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, the book I mentioned in my Wednesday Book Impression. The book that I love so much. Yes, that one. I didn’t realize just how engaging the book was until I had to stop reading, and suddenly my mind tried to reconcile reality and fiction, that those adept young teens on a mission to win a deadly game against each other don’t exist; that I’m back to the world where Nthato Morakabi exists and has things to do. It was a profound experience. It was a testament to the brilliance of the book and the authors’ ability to truly get me to suspend disbelief.

All those years in my youth were spent in suspended disbelief, where kids could transform into any animal they touched, where little towns where actually filled with ghosts and the main protagonist only realizes this when the ghosts chase him into a forest and surround him. Suspended disbelief. What a subtle yet powerful phenomenon reading is.

The Power of writing

Writers, artists, musicians, dancers and other creative people have such an amazing and unique gift. We take these for granted and yet they permeate every aspect of our lives. Consider the last movie you truly enjoyed, the emotions that coursed through you as you sat there engaged for 90 or so minutes. Did you consider that someone wrote that script? That someone composed the music, arranged it. That someone played it accordingly. That it was filmed, edited and compiled to be what it finally was. And finally, that it was done so well that you too, during that time were dangling precariously on the edge of suspended disbelief as those characters came to life in the acting. Amazing.

I am truly inspired and at the same time completely overwhelmed by the power behind it all. That I could write a story that would leave someone mentally engaged, emotionally shaken and physically stimulated by an arrangement of letters and words and sentences. That I too could be so taken by another person’s creative mind that reality ceases to exists.

Now that, is the power of art.

Have you ever been taken by a book, movie, song or any other creative art in such a manner?



About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African published author. He has short stories appearing in both international and local anthologies, and has published his first book, Beneath the Wax, which opens his three-part novella series "Wax". He is an avid reader, blogger and writer.

4 responses »

  1. This is such a true post. As a child I refused to buy a used chest of drawers because I was sure a ghost would come out of it (goosebumps) and I thought if i liked an animal enough I would turn into it (animorphs) and if I cut my hair short and got a dog I could become an investigator (Famous five). These emotions still rise up when I spot the covers of these books and I’ve still got some of them in great condition for when I have kids. For indian movies you have to willingly suspend disbelief though not for positive reasons. Lol.
    If I were to think of a movie that makes me feel this way now I can only think Of How To Train Your Dragon. haha, guess I’m still a kid at heart.

    • Haha looks like we read the same kinds of books as kids… then again those were YA books back in those early days. I feel the same nostalgia when I see the book covers, and is the only reason I will bare with Jack Black in the Goosebumps movie when I finally get to watch it.

      I love How to Train You Dragon, both of them. I too was completely taken by the movie, the visuals, the characters, the story – all of it. Nothing wrong with being a child at heart 🙂

      • I haven’t watched it either. Don’t think I will. Have you watched the shows? I was terrified by them!
        I love both of them. Maybe in three they’ll find another Nightfury!

      • I watched a couple of the shows, they are embedded in my mind for the rest of my life!

        As for three, I’m also looking forward to it.

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