LITCH-RICH-UH! When I see the word “literature,” I feel compelled to use British pronunciation. One of my lit professors in high school was from New Zealand, so that likely factors in. But it’s kinda posh and I like it!
Apart from those few pre-teen years when I read almost every Nancy Drew that Carolyn Keene ever wrote, I admit that I’ve never been much of a book worm. But lately I just want to go spend hours smelling books at Barnes & Noble, judge each and every one by its cover, select an entire stack of classic literary novels I never read in school, and spend the winter months cozied up by my YouTube fireplace reading. (I do really YouTube my fires right onto the TV, since we don’t have a true fireplace at home. It’s the little things ❤ )
What got me going on this idea really began a few years ago. If there’s ever one movie I’ve watched literally one-hundred times or more, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt it’s Pride & Prejudice. I adore era films, especially any sort of eighteenth-century-England gold (perhaps it’s the accents, because they say words like litch-rich-uh). That’s how I went on to discover similar era movies based on books and found none other than Jane Eyre.
That particular novel by Charlotte Bronte never appeared on my reading list in school, so I was never aware of it before the most recent film-version appeared on Netflix’s “Recommended For You.” Intrigued, I watched it without any prior knowledge of the content or even the genre.
All I can say is that the ending of the movie left me absolutely haunted. I hated it. But I couldn’t figure out why or get it out of my system. It was dark but also happy; creepy but intriguing; eccentric but engaging. I had unformed questions banging around inside my mind, question marks I just couldn’t quite identify.
And this, according to my educators, is the mark of quality literature. Good books make you think.
I decided I needed to consult the book itself to find insight and clarity into the story. I became a true book worm during the next several days, and with proper context and renewed interest, I revisited that movie. Once a hater, now a fan.
This experience was the key which went on to unlock some new perspectives on literature for me. Novels are not the boring, useless, nerdish entities I once thought they were.
The value of fiction
There was a time when I thought only non-fiction was valuable. “Give me self-help, spiritual guidance, and step-by-step insights. Otherwise, a big “no thank you” to anything filled with pretense,” I inwardly protested for many years. After all, parables and allegories aside, what could anyone learn from stories born by mere imagination, from entertainment? (Then again, perhaps not all novels are meant for entertainment.)
As I read Jane Eyre, I felt I was Jane Eyre. Her emotions, though fictional, fingered the harp of my own non-fictional heart’s emotions. For as long as my nose was stuck in that novel, I experienced her story. Page after page, I was allowing my inner-person to walk that mile in her shoes. And through Charlotte Bronte’s writing, I myself was faced with each dilemma her character encountered: What would I have done? What should I have done? Which response was moral, responsible, or wise? Even if it’s only within, it’s interesting how good novels – fake scenarios, fundamentally speaking – cause us to make decisions about the world and about ourselves. Surely there’s value in that, after all.
Curling up to enjoy fictional novels can be just as impactful as disciplining yourself to pour through non-fictional guides and information. True to THE ART OF BEING, it goes to show once again that there’s at least as much beauty in being as there is in achieving.
Readers make better writers
Jane Eyre was the first piece of fiction I had allowed myself to indulge in for a long time, so the contrast was noticeably stark: there was literally an overnight change in the quality of my writing style. I noticed it first in my journal. My sentence structure flowed with more ease than figure skates on fresh ice. My vocabulary varied apart from the same few words I was familiar with using, and the newer words added precision to my meaning. I also noticed that creative metaphors and similes came more readily to mind. All this, and I was not even trying to write differently.
I didn’t know I already had all that potential in me, or that I just needed to be jump-started. And to think reading a well-written and thought-provoking piece of literature did that for me! (Note: To each their own, yet in my humble opinion cheap modern romance novels are not typically what ought to be considered literary novels. That’s why I’m starting with tried and true classics stocked on school library shelves!)
More stimulating than TV shows
Last winter, I read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and it proved better than watching a show. By this I don’t mean that the story itself was necessarily more intense, captivating, or addictive than a television series. But even without constant intrigue and adrenaline, not to mention the shock and awe of explosions everywhere packed into one thirty minute episode… it was more fulfilling and much more stimulating.
Characters and their situations are more dynamic in prose, mainly because one thing screenplay can’t do is deeply explore inner feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Novels draw upon the imagination, unlike the silver screen where our imagination is colored-in for us. We experience characters from the inside-out in good literature, as opposed to film where we can only interpret characters from the outside-in.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore a cheesy romantic comedy – bad acting and all, and Austin and I guiltlessly laughed our way through all of Parks and Recreation. I just think society lately underestimates the amount (and quality) of stimulation we afford ourselves each time we indulge in an excellent novel. And that’s what I’m excited to get back into.
What about you, are you with me?
Now this is a serious question, because I’m working on assembling a personal reading list: Which literary novels do you think I should include on my list this season? PLEASE comment!