I really enjoyed Remembering Books, about knowing things from books but not being able to remember how you know them.
I suffer from a slightly different problem. I remember things from books, I internalise and process, make connections and add erratically to what is in my head. I am not concerned as to how I know something when some relevant thought swims up through the swirling torrent that is normally in my head. But I am concerned with whether it’s true or not!
I read fiction, which is basically full of made up stuff. It may contain facts, it may be based on fact, it may have an original view on facts but there are no guarantees! Be careful what you do with the “knowledge” and “insight” you have gained from fiction.
I do, however, guarantee that if you read a fiction book about a Muslim in Egypt, for example, you will know more about being a Muslim and more about living in Egypt. You will have an idea, an impression of what it is like to be an Egyptian Muslim. But what do you really know? You can’t be sure.
I am visually impaired. I read a great book whose main character was a young blind girl. It was fantastic and so believable that I know that the author must have had some insight into growing up as a blind woman (he is neither). I really feel empathy for this character and feel that I understand some of the challenges, opportunities, similarities and differences. But I don’t know. I am sure I do understand more than I did before I read the book.
Historical fiction is terrible for me. Help! Which bits are facts? Which bits are fiction? If it’s good, I can’t tell! I then feel like I know so much about these events, who did what, when and the worst of all why. I’d like to discuss them but without doing some kind of thesis I can’t unravel the truth from the fiction. So I give up and and hopefully I’ve read a book that got it mostly right. (I must avoid books that view fascist dictators sympathetically).
Similarly with good science based fiction (Michael l Cordy). OMG! I know how to synthesize nano machines and to guard against them getting out of my control, how to record human experience in DNA in a cell, how to telepathically communicate. I have to rely on my science academic background to help me weed out the truths from the fictions. I am pretty lost though.
Even emotional awareness. I know how it feels to be a betrayed wife, a serial killer, a hostage, an optimist and a child.
There is only one hope for me. That I read books by talented authors who do know, or who know enough to get it mostly right. I think I’m doing pretty well so far, I don’t think I’m too obnoxious as a know it all and I embrace the uncertainty that leaves me open to new ideas and original angles on the world. WordPress is great for finding writers who do know, they are living it and generous enough to share it.