China New Star - on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn

China New Star – on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn

We—my mom, brother, sister, and I—were enjoying a rare family meal at China New Star Restaurant on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. I was trying to explain to them what was so great about Paolo Coehlo’s international bestselling novel, THE ALCHEMIST, which I’d recently read. As I was going through a litany of praises, my sister, the devoted New Kids on the Block fan, sighed as only little sisters can sigh, and said, “If it has this great message about life and stuff, why not just tell us what it is?”

After expressing the exasperation of a big brother exhausted from 30+ years of being exasperated with his younger siblings, I said, “It’s not the same. You can’t just tell someone what the meaning of a great book is. Doesn’t work like that.”

“Why not?” my sister said.

“Because, that’s why,” I said, big-bro brilliant.

The embarrassing fact is, I didn’t know why on that day. But my little sister’s line of questioning stuck with me. As I started thinking more and more about my little sister’s question, I started thinking about the role of fiction in our society, and how it seems that there’s a perception “out there” that fiction is for entertainment purposes only—that it’s not useful for helping us solve the many problems we face.

And that is DEAD WRONG.

Robert Bly says:

“The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the wintering place, how to perform the mating dance—all of this information is stored in the reservoirs of the bird’s instinctual brain. But human beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the instinctual system; they stored it in stories. Stories, then—fairy stories, legends, myths, hearth stories—amount to a reservoir where we keep new ways of responding that we can adopt when the conventional and current ways wear out.”

Once it became clear that great fiction could have a distinctly useful purpose, I sought to find out what some of those purposes could be…


The audio player above uses Flash. If that don’t suit ya, here is the link.


Show notes and links:

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Robert Bly – Iron John
David Biddle
Nirvana by Adam Johnson
Find the Bad Guy by Jeffrey Eugenides
Alain Robbe-Grillet
REAL Writers Group –
Paradise Lost – The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills


Music provided by radiotimes, admiralbob77, and lazztunes_07 of Outtro courtesy of melodysheep on YouTube. Liner provided by the lovely and talented (and recently incarcerated) Lady Anarchy, Ms. Amanda Billyrock. Intro voicework by BelindaJoh.

Posted by Frank Marcopolos

Frank Marcopolos lives in Pittsburgh, PA, without a dog. He writes novels, short stories, grocery lists, and love letters to lasagna bakers. He also produces free audiobooks of public domain works on his YouTube channel. You can subscribe to that here: