3.17.2009

The one in which I scramble to hold onto my old self.

Bob and Betsy were in town this weekend and we spent Sunday morning sitting around the living room eating pancakes and talking about books. We started talking about why Eat, Pray, Love could be a threatening read to a guy (see: the smart, beautiful woman you've built a life with suddenly decides she's not living the life she wishes she was) and moved on to discussing why some literature can be dangerous- and even threatening- to your happiness.

There is part of me that wants to smack myself in the jaw because I just typed that.

There is another part of me that knows deep down, however, that it's at least a little bit true.

Bob is reading Kundera right now and mentioned all the sex and adultery that happens. If you've read Kundera, you know what I'm talking about- the gritty way he reaches for your human instincts and reveals them within you. On the one hand, it's an utterly enlightening read- on the other, it's dangerous to draw these truths about yourself because it threatens the reality you've built.

Betsy had a good compromise: literature takes true moments (the instinct to be unfaithful, a murderer, etc.) and fleshes them out into an entire novel. In this way, literature becomes The Worst Case Scenario, a medium in which you're allowed to play out all of the tiny mischevious instincts you have without any threat to your happiness outside the book.

In a strange way, I feel that Rosenwasser (one of our English profs at Muhlenberg) would call me out on this blog post. He'd call me a Republican, a puritan, a stuffy, prudish girl who's lost all her edges. Afraid of reading literature because it's too dangerous? Or, more accurately, noting a moment of comfort and happiness that perhaps exists because I haven't been reading much lately? Worst English Major Ever.

I admit that the fiction I'm working on attempts to start with a "true" moment, something that will resonate with someone. A break-up. Death. Where are all the happy moments and why do they never resonate as true? The truth is, they're not half as interesting to write.

I think this is why I admire The Feast of Love so much as a work; Baxter finds a way to expose true moments while not ruining the lives of everyone involved. I won't argue that he was trying to write a happy novel- only that he's found a way to write these difficult emotions faithfully and not fully depress me as a reader.

Are there thoughts? Does anyone hesitate to read Kundera or Kafka or The French Authors because it's so overwhelming? Or do you think I've become a total lame-ass since removing France and literature from my daily life? Comment away... I'm off to spend my day in pixel-land, where it seems that truth and morals are defined by whether people close their "div" tags or not. Sexy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One initial thought - while it's not about reading, it's still the same feeling - I pretty much refuse to see Revolutionary Road because I’m afraid it will be terribly depressing, (and not in a removed-like-The-Wrestler kind of way) but rather in a way that I’m afraid it will crush my happily-married-living-in-the-suburbs-with-kids dream. And I want to hold onto some naivety and hope and not be so fully immersed into other's lives that it changes my own (in a negative way). And that’s the problem, too: the ability to become fully immersed in something we read or see to the effect that it STAYS with us long after we’re “done” with it.

xoxoxo
Sar