Monday, June 23, 2008

Of Violets and Light

I have just finished E.M. Forster's "A Room With a View." If you have not read it lately, I recommend that you do. It contains all that a book should: Truth, beauty, hope.

Sometimes, a book affects me this way. Making my breath come fast, my cheeks flush, my heart beat, merely from the truth and beauty of it. When I read a book that is truly successful, it touches me, in a physical way—with tears, with a tangible joy; a feeling of soaring, of extending somehow beyond myself, a strange and marvelous connection. It is not the plot that affects me thus—I never cry at the death of a character, rarely rejoice in a long-awaited reunion of lovers. It is the Truths behind the words—it is always the ideas—that affect me in this way. And this is the power of writing: the power of speaking to the soul, a power that is unique.

I dare not hope to harness such a power—this ability is bestowed on infinitely fewer mortals than live to see their names in print—but if I can channel even a small fraction of this gift, even just once in my life, I will have achieved something wonderful; I will have experienced a euphoria unintelligible to those who have never sought it.

In the meantime, I can only bask in the accomplishments of others, awestruck, benefiting immeasurably from their ability to somehow compress Truth and fit it between the slim and physical covers of a magically transcendent tool that I can hold in my hand.


Northern Light said...

Even your post is poetic. I wish you many more lofty literary experiences, from both your own writing and absorbing others' insights.

Ezzie said...

Silly SJ. Don't you realize you already have? :)

Daphne said...

Hmmm...I read "A Room with a View", and I didn't really like it that much. Then again, I suppose you and I have never had similar tastes when it comes to novels :)
I'm curious to know - what is it that you liked so much about it? I wrote a paper on the book so I analyzed and probed it from many angles, and I still didn't feel like it held that much beauty or truth (not to ruin it for you - I'm just curious as to your point of view).

SJ said...

Daphne - I first read ARWAV in ninth grade. I think I liked it then, but mildly--I pretty much totally missed the things that made it such a powerful experience for me this time. When did you read it--was it recently, or a long time ago?

In addition to being entertaining, funny, and simply well-written, the book deals in a very poignant way with issues that I have struggled with and experienced recently. If I had read it even a year ago it probably wouldn't have meant as much to me.

The main character grapples with getting to know herself and what she truly believes, as opposed to merely following the dictates of her society and the people around her. The book illustrates the importance of honesty, optimism, and love. The topics it deals with can also be related to the Jewish community as a whole, as it shows that externals and protocol are not what matters, and that the search for truth and beauty in life is paramount.

This summary does not, by any means, do the book justice, and even trying to capture it in a few sentences minimizes its effect. It may not resonate with everyone as much as it did with me, but as someone who has been through some very parallel situations and thought processes, I found it a truly exhilarating read.

mink said...

Alas, I am in the bizarre position of vowing to never, ever, ever, EVER read that book (despite your beautiful post) because the MOVIE is just too gloriously wonderful. Kisses and poppies to you!

eldon said...

room with a view, yes, i enjoyed it, but my REAL favourite of forsters is howards end. that is his tour de force imnsho. a guy can write inside the heads of women, and flay the society of the time so well through the novel form, plus describe english culture as it was then and whose echoes can still be felt in today's UK, and above all, his getting at the notion of relationship to others: how are we to live? sorry, i do go on, but it's a great work, multi-layered and thought-provoking.