Friday, May 18, 2007

A Short, Bookish Rant

Often, when recommending a really good book to someone, I find myself biting back on saying something like, "Reading this was like getting punched in the stomach." What I mean, of course, is that whatever book I am referring to is extremely powerful, or wrenching, or just bloody good. But, as I said, I resist this particular description because when you pick up a book, you're not looking for physical abuse. A good book is something euphoric, something that makes you happy. Right?

Not in this scribbler's opinion. Of course, there are books whose intention is just to be funny. Some of them even suceed. But really good books are not one-note, just-funny (or chase-escape-here's-your-happy-ending, or whatever). A good book is like... Like being in love. It makes you happy, sure, but it's also thrilling, exhilerating, maddening, moving, terrifying, bittersweet, uncomfortable. It makes you vulnerable. But in the end, no matter the outcome, there's almost always a reward to be had. Whether one can grasp said reward is a different matter.

I will leave with a quote by Franz Kafka, which, though perhaps a little extreme, suits my purposes well enough in closing:

I think we should only read books which bite and sting. If the book that we read doesn't wake us like a blow to the skill, why do we read the book? To make us happy...? My God, we could be happy even if we had no books, and if really necessary we could write books to make us happy ourselves. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster that hurts us greatly, like the death of someone we love more dearly than ourselves, as if we were driven out into forests, far away from any human beings, like a suicide, a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within. That is what I believe.


Nat said...

A good book is like... Like being in love.

This is very, very, very true, for various reasons.

Ethan said...

:D One could probably write an entire book just based on that. ;-)

Nat said...

And then you could call it meta-fiction.

Ethan said...

Hehe. Very nice. :D

Sir N said...

Good observations. I always appreciate good (even when short) rants. A book definitely should be something of power. For example, A Walk to Remember (because it's one I read fairly recently) was a book that literally had me feeling uber-depressed for a couple days after I read it. After I got over that though, I went one and one to several people about how good I thought the book was. I even read it again, not because I'm a masochist or like being depressed of course, just because that book was great in that powerful way.

Ethan said...

Wow. Sparks, eh? A always like to make fun of him... I should probably actually read something of his before I do that. :P

Now I may have to read that.

And are you saying there's something wrong with someone who likes being depressed? ;) :P

Sir N said...

From what I've heard, _A Walk to Remember_ is his only book really worth reading, but it is a great one.

I did not say there was anything wrong with liking to be depressed, though that is a bit contradictory since "liking" entails some happiness and being depressed certainly does not. Apparently, I like being depressed sometimes though, and there certainly is something wrong with me.