“But reading is actually the opposite of escape. No story can live without the reader’s emotional participation. The writer’s words are but directions to a place within the reader where sadness and joy and grief and curiosity and boredom and hope and despair reside. The words alone are a skeleton; the reader’s felt responses to those words are the flesh and blood of every story ever told.
What’s more, every story ever told grows from the same fertile thought: Life matters. It matters that someone fell in love or someone was crowned queen. It matters that a father and son were reunited. It matters that the killer was caught. Life is not just a bunch of meaningless crap that happens to us between birth and death. The story guides us to that place within us where we know life matters, where we know that we are interested for a reason, where we know that we matter and are living on purpose.”— William Kenower
It’s not unusual to hear a statement like “I read to escape from life.” I’ve never agreed with that concept. Literature is about life, not an escape from it.
Certainly, some books are challenging to read in the sense that they demand a lot from the reader, both technically and emotionally, while other books zip along more quickly and seemingly effortlessly. The Thorn Birds is easier to read than Cloud Atlas or War and Peace. Yet both types of books require readers to interact with them, to participate in the experiences of the world that the author’s words create.
Even those novels sold in airport shops, books often referred to as “beach reads” or “airplane books,” offer us glimpses into lives and minds other than our own. I admit that when I’m going on a trip, I choose what I think will be the less challenging type of book to take along and leave the more complex ones behind for a time when I’ll be able to concentrate more on reading them. But even when I sit settle into my seat and pull out my airplane book, I’m eager to immerse myself in the story of someone’s life, not to escape from life.
What do you think?
© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown