Saturday, April 25, 2015

Where Have Books Taken You and What Have You Brought Back?

Though sometimes it may feel that way, writing is NOT like climbing Mount Everest in the dark. You can die climbing Mount Everest. You can get caught in an avalanche. You can come back down to find a whole city decimated by an earthquake.

There is real tragedy in the world. Today, I am not going to moan about having to write, I am going to be grateful for being able to write. It is, after all, in most societies (and ours is no exception) an indulgence. That’s ironic because stories help us understand our world and are, therefore, essential. They also allow us to escape reality when we don’t like it. At their best stories are art, and perhaps things of beauty. I believe art raises us up, even if only from somewhere subterranean to the sidewalk. Sometimes, it brings us higher—much higher.
So, write. Write your hearts out. Write as if you’ll die if you don’t. Or, write because you are a person on this planet, and you believe you have something to contribute. And if you have no reason to write and can’t come up with one, write anyway. If you don’t make writing your enemy, it can be a  very reliable friend.

Sorry this is so sappily encouraging and not even funny, but the earthquake in Nepal made me take a hard look at my blessings today.
Let's read novels about people in places who don’t have as much privilege as we do. I recommend THE WOMAN WHO LOST HER SOUL by Bob Shacochis, published by Atlantic Monthly Press. It is long (over 700 pages in hardcover). It is convoluted, but it is sometimes transcendent and will likely never leave you. Please recommend more books in the comments section. Let’s hear what books uplift you and change you, which books don’t allow you to look at a country the same way ever again. The stories don’t have to be about foreign countries. I was never the same after reading BROWN GIRL, BROWNSTONES by Paule Marshall or Amy Tan's THE JOY LUCK CLUB. 
Where have books taken you and what have you brought back?

1 comment:

  1. "A Marker to Measure Drift" by Alexander Maksik was haunting. I read it over a year ago and still think about it. Also, a couple all-time favorites: "Dreams of My Russian Summers" and "Once Upon the River Love" both by Andrei Makine, about growing up in Soviet Siberia.

    I definitely have to check out the Paule Marshall book.