Monday, January 03, 2005
No, what I am talking about is a work of literature's temperament, the nearly cell-level sensation its voice provokes in a reader. Faced with the opening pages of a book, we subconsciously ask ourselves: Do I like the consciousness behind these words? The next question, even more cognitively buried, is: Does it like me? One can answer yes to one and no to the other, of course, and still like and admire a book. It is probably even possible to arrive at a negative conclusion to both questions and still attain from a book some form of enjoyment, however masochistic. But to say yes on both counts -- I like this, this likes me -- is often to love a book without judgment or hesitation. Such blind, consuming love makes us as protective and jealous as Isaiah's concept of divinity, and we are offended when others do not share the intensity of our passion. It should be noted that this is pretty much exactly analogous to how we forge friendships and love affairs with real, organic human beings.
I read the book of Job last night. I don't think God comes out well in it.
". . . there's a second kind of reader. There's the social isolate--the child who from an early age felt very different from everyone around him. This is very very difficult to uncover in an interview. People don't like to admit that they were social isolates as children. What happens is you take that sense of being different into an imaginary world. But that world, then, is a world you can't share with the people around you--because it's imaginary. And so the important dialogue in your life is with the authors of the books you read. Though they aren't present, they become your community."
--Shirley Brice Heath