In "Sunday Dinner in Brooklyn," why does Paul call his parents his "favorite fiction?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paul is disaffected from the world; he has little interest in knowing what people think or do, and sees most people as stereotypes or as unimportant individuals with little purpose. He moves through the world as if on a guided track, responding to expected norms -- as when he enters the subway only because he does not see "his crew" with whom he would engage in cultural communication -- and not taking risks, chances, or unexpected actions. His parents, who love him in their own way, are desperate for his approval; he, in turn, wants to escape the outside world, and so seeks out their attentions, which he knows will be given without need of reciprocity.

...for all the reading I did I might just as well have put it into the seat of my pants. My mind kept dropping down the page like a marble in a pinball machine until I finally gave it up, conceding that no book could successfully compete with my favorite fiction, my mother and father.
(Broyard, "Sunday Dinner in Brooklyn," Google Books)

Paul's description is not meant to be hurtful, but instead as a mockery of himself; Paul knows that he doesn't fully believe in the love of his parents, but he seeks it out anyway. Paul is lost in his life, immersed in the collective consciousness of the city, and returning to his "favorite fiction" should allow him to forget his problems for a time and return to his youth. Unfortunately, he is far too self-aware of his problems to let them go, and the visit instead puts him on edge.

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Sunday Dinner in Brooklyn

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