English novelist, literary critic and translator Tim Parks offers a new perspective »»
|Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List|
9 August 2015
I have to admit this article's title caught my eye.
In a "mindful moment," I recognized that I'd gone into an instant auto-reject mode based upon a flood of negative expectations resulting from the title.Yet, I read it though with significant skeptical anticipation.
Though I'd prefer to let you decide whether or not you find value in the article, I did find the following Question and Response a valuable confirmation of one of my own core beliefs regarding the way reading literature sometimes works and sometimes does not work. That belief being that reader readiness is the real key to whether a particular piece of literature works.
[The CAPS are mine]
"There is a crucial question at the beginning of your book: “Do books, after all, change anything?” Have you been able to reach a concise answer for that?
Well, W.H. Auden famously thought they didn't. My own feeling is that in our personal lives, books, like all kinds of other encounters, can change things, for better or worse. I think of books like meetings. Anything can happen. Usually a new acquaintance is quickly forgotten, but SOMETIMES A PARTICULAR MIND AND AND ATTITUDE INTERSECT AT A PARTICULAR MOMENT WITH YOUR DISPOSITION. And in this case, a book can shift your vision of the world and change the way you think. Beckett did this to me, as did Bernhard and a lesser-known British writer named Henry Green. BUT THESE ARE VERY PERSONAL THINGS. IT DOES NOT ALWAYS DEPEND ON THE QUALITY OF THE BOOK, BUT THE NATURE OF THE TWO MINDS MEETING.
The way I have phrased the concept has been,
No two people ever read the same book and no person ever reads the same book twice.
Ironically, I remember precisely when I first came to this understanding. Not surprisingly, it was a result of a literary reading experience. And even more ironically it was a book I only found slightly intriguing at the time. In fact, it was a book I've never bothered to be interested enough in to re-read. But it is a book that included two sentences that somehow struck an incredibly receptive moment at that intersection with my life at that time. The book was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I was a college freshman at the time; was just beginning to suspect that I might be emerging from "some sort of' youthful cocoon of blissful ignorance when I came upon this passage,..
“But out of all secrets of the river, he today only saw one, this one touched his soul. He saw: this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless always there, was always at all times the same and yet new in every moment!"
Worth remembering when 30 students are sitting on the bank of the river of literary wisdom.
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