What makes you fizz? by Jo Carroll

I'm not around today. I'm at a cricket match. (England v Pakistan, an ODI, at the Ageas Bowl, for anyone who is interested.)

Cricket isn't for everyone - so this isn't the space where I bang on about googlies and cow corner. Instead - I recall an interview with Alistair Cook (the England captain) after a particularly quiet day in the field, when he talked about the importance of sport as entertainment. People pay to watch just because they enjoy it.

He made me think. For, when you unpick it, you could argue that all sports that open their gates to the paying public are in the entertainment business. Football, snooker, cricket - they are all sustained by people willing to pay for the pleasure of watching.

And writers? Surely we, too, are in the entertainment business. We hope that we can give enough people enough pleasure to pay for us to keep writing.

Pleasure, of course, is a complicated construct. For some it is enough to be diverted from life's realities for an hour or two. Some want to be challenged by difficult or controversial issues. Others want to engage on a deeply emotional level. But they are all looking for something to connect with on one level or another - something to entice them away from FaceBook or the TV.

But ... What about the power of writing challenge ideas? To highlight injustice? To prompt a reader to leap from the sofa and join the rebels on the the barricades in an effort to change things? Surely good writing has the potential to change lives?

Yes, writing can change lives. But before it can do that, the reader must be engaged to the point that reading becomes more important than anything else in the world - and to do that it has to 'entertain', in the widest sense of the word. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have abandoned a worthy tome full of philosophical insight on the basis that I have better things to do than fall asleep over a book, however important the ideas. And I have sat up late at night to wrestle with ideas because they are new and challenging and my brain is fizzing with them.

And that, I would argue, is what entertainment is - that brain-fizzing. It helps us feel truly alive.
Reading, writing, singing, and cricket do it for me - what about you?


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