What I’m reading

 

One of the several changes that are currently happening in my life (which I talked about in my last blog post) is that I’ve decided to devote more of my life energy into the pursuit of the beautiful, and one way I intend to do that is by reading more fiction.

I know that seems like an odd thing to pronounce in such a lofty manner (as if fiction will save my life or something like that), but I mean it. I’ve always loved to read (and since elementary school days have always read about 2-3x more non-fiction than fiction), but in the last few years I’ve shifted almost all of my focus away from fiction and in doing so I think I’ve impoverished myself in some ways.

So anyway, this concern first came up a year or two ago when a friend gave me a set of used books (my favorite kind of books, as they have more character… and of course are usually cheaper). She said that these were books that she thought I would like and that she thought that I might enjoy reading more fiction. I did read one or two of those volumes (I think one was Goodbye Columbus, if I recall correctly)

Shortly after that though life started getting crazy and before long the books were sitting on the bookcase and almost forgotten. A year or so passed then, and about the time that all of my graduation-triggered malaise and depression kicked in, a different friend noted the same concern (that I don’t read much fiction anymore), so she gave me a few books as my graduation present that were meaningful to her.

Well, now that I’ve had two of my dearest friends come to pretty much the same conclusion, I think I’m going to listen. To begin with I’m going to be going be reading the books that these friends gave me, but I’m also open to other books as well (and would love y’all’s recommendations on fiction that you found profound or at least interesting).

So far, the first book I’ve read since having conclusion jump out at me is J. D. Sallinger’s Franny and Zooey, which I thoroughly loved. It is a quirky little book, full of family melodrama (it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite movies, The Royal Tennenbaums) as well as good bit of discussion theology and philosophy in a way that was surprising yet genuine.

The next book on my list (ok, I cheated but I bought this book today with a Borders Gift Card that someone bought me for Christmas) is Fidelity: Five Stories by Wendell Berry. After that I’m going to hunt down the books my friend (the first one who gave me books of fiction that I talked about above).

In the interests of full disclosure: The links above on the book titles in this blogpost point to Amazon.com. If these books interest you, please consider buying them by these links as I get a percentage of the sales made through these links.


One thought on “What I’m reading”

  1. Lloyd Alexander On Fantasy

    When asked how to develop intelligence in young people, Einstein answered: “Read fairy tales. Then read more fairy tales.” I can only add: Yes, and the sooner the better. Fairy tales and fantasies nourish the imagination. And imagination supports our whole intellectual and psychological economy. Not only in literature, music, and painting spring from the seedbed of imagination; but, as well, all the sciences, mathematics, philosophies, cosmologies. Without imagination, how could we have invented the wheel or the computer? Or toothpaste? Or nuclear weapons? Or speculate “What if—?” Or have any compassionate sense what it’s like to live in another person’s skin?

    For me, writing fantasy for young people has surely been the most creative and liberating experience of my life. As a literary form, fantasy has let me express my own deepest feelings and attitudes about the world we’re all obliged to live in.

    A paradox? Creating worlds that never existed as a way to gain some kind of insight into a world that is very real indeed? The paradox is easily resolved. Whatever its surface ornamentation, fantasy that strives to reach the level of durable art deals with the bedrock of human emotions, conflicts, dilemmas, relationships. That is to say: the realities of life.

    As adults, we know that life is a tough piece of business. Sometimes the most heroic thing we can do is get out of bed in the morning. I think it’s just as tough for young people. On an emotional level, a child’s anguish and a child’s joy are as intense as our own. Young people recognize their own inner lives while they journey through a world completely imaginary.

    I don’t mean to imply that works of realism haven’t the same profound effect on young readers. Of course they do. More often than not, however, realism tends to deal with material of immediate, current interest; with, to use a word much overused, what is relevant. All well and good. But there’s a difference between what is relevant and what is merely topical. The topical goes away after a while, to be replaced by the next fashionable subject; the newest literary disease of the month, as it were. The best fantasy it seems to me, is permanently relevant. Because it deals metaphorically with basic human situations, it always has something to say to us. Also, I think that fantasy offers a certain vividness and high spiritedness unique to itself. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of sheer fun, delight, and excitement. In any art, boredom is not a virtue.

    Dealing with the impossible, fantasy can show us what may be really possible. If there is grief, there is the possibility of consolation; if hurt, the possibility of healing; and above all, the curative power of hope. If fantasy speaks to us as we are, it also speaks to us as we might be. •

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