Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I Think Novels are Best.

Philosophy will clip an angel's wings, Conquer all mysteries by rule and line, Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine - Unweave a rainbow
Oh,  I heart you, Keats. 

For the past few years I've been lazy about reading. I suppose I'm not really one to go about extolling the virtues of novels and literature when I, myself, often hesitate the crack the covers of a book and just read. But I've decided to come to terms with the fact that my hesitance stems from grad-school trauma, and not from a rational place. Plus, I do read, just not as voraciously as I used to.

And so I think it's okay that I'm going to go on a little novels are awesome kick, despite my poor behavior in this area.

So I've decided to make a list and then write about each item a little bit every day.

Really great novels are awesome because:

1.) They tell a story.
2.) They describe human nature.
3.) They are self-contained.
4.) They end, but continue to exist.
5.) The ending stretches out forever.
6.) They are subjective.
7.) They try to make sense of things that don't make sense.

This list is not so exhaustive, but I feel like I need to remind myself of why I loved novels in the first place from time to time. You may read this and think: "How the hell can studying literature cause one hate literature?" Well, I can't really answer that question very easily, because I am me, and I am verbose, and I am my own person with an individual reason for it that probably doesn't account for others, but that was what happened to me.

Video games don't really help here either, let's be honest.

As a writer, though, this fear of novels is kind of a problem, too. At one point I used to think: Novels matter. My life wouldn't be worth living without them. And now I find that I can get through my week without finish some novel or another, and I do not have an overwhelming desire to read. Life goes on without literature.

Ergo: Why write?

For a while I used to say: I write because that's all I've got going for me. But that's kind of a poor excuse, too, and ridiculous. (I mean, hello? I can also boil water and chew gum at the same time). But after a while, like all band aids covering larger problems, this excuse stopped working.

And I stopped writing as much, because it also seemed kind of pointless.

But here's the good news: I'm coming around a little bit, starting off with a "fuck you" to the side of me that is 1.) Depressed. and 2.) Believes the overwhelmingly pragmatic vibe that exists in this sad, scientifically-obsessed age we live in, that reduces us all to genes and atoms and animals that just do things for physical satisfaction, because that stuff is soul-crushing.

(See: Keats, Fig. 1).

My sister went to art school in Boston, and the Christian fellowship there had this little motto that went something like: "We Create Because We Were Created." Perhaps that is part of my problem: I don't think of creativity, the act of creation, as something we humans were designed to do, mainly because that is something that is not often on people's wavelengths. It doesn't come up in conversation, most of the time. It can be easy to forget about what our soul needs, since Omega-3 fish oils won't help supplement that problem

And I shouldn't think of writing as something that serves my purposes, exactly. They serve a purpose outside of myself. As does all art, all literature, all music. At least, that is what it should do. Maybe that is the problem with Rock Stars, yes?

So novels may not seem to serve a purpose on the surface, but they do matter. They do fulfill a purpose. And my idea of what purpose this is may not be extensive or academic*, but oh well. And so I am going to explore the items in my list for the next few posts (and maybe finish that damn vampire story).

There you go.

...And, okay, full disclosure: having a "series" might help me be a little more disciplined in posting, too.

*caveat: This is not to say that the academic study of literature is bad/useless/no good. On the contrary: I'm all for the promotion of English Departments, and the study of English Literature... You'll be fine as long as you do not wish to get a stable and well-paying job. Kidding, kidding: it is terrible that the humanities are dying. Seriously. We need them. If you don't agree: re-read post.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I doubt the power of literature, I'm reminded that God communicated with us by inspiring a bunch of literature. Even the prophets are written in a kind of verse and the narratives of the OT are a kind of literary form.

    I really like your list of topics and I look forward to the series.