Devoted to Literature?

Here is another editorial touching on the value of reading literature:

Devotee to Literature?
By Esther Lombardi

Let’s face it… some novels are difficult. You may start the book and have a hard time getting through the first sentence–much less the first page or the first chapter (if it’s even broken up into chapters). After you’ve read for a while, the process of sloughing [sic] through the harder stuff becomes easier. You’ll discover how to read those more difficult works of literature. But, authors don’t always make the process very easy…

In an interview, the famous Irish Exile James Joyce said: “The only demand I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.” (And, some of his devotees have dedicated their scholarly lives to re-reading, studying, and deciphering works like the famously difficult Finnegans Wake—which was published in 1939-—and Ulysses—published in 1922). The works can be seen as a gigantic puzzle, and Joyce is the master who put all of the pieces together (intertwining innumerable allusions that point as a roadmap to understand some of the greater and more elusive questions).

Yes, literature is full of difficult books (or works that at least appear difficult to the inexperienced reader, or those unfamiliar with the time period/context of the work). But, once you push past the surface, you may discover lines of pure gold. After all, there usually is a VERY good reason that books are considered great. For some students, it may seem impossible to see any greatness in a book that seems to have outlived its age and usefulness. But, those are sometimes the very books you may grow to cherish–if you take a step back, gain some understanding, and approach the book with an open mind. (Don’t hate a book just because a teacher says it’s GREAT… Give the book a chance. It may just change your life.)

Esther Lombardi writes regularly for About.com, concentrating on Classical Literature. She offers some decent advice on reading difficult books at the link above. Jump over to About.com and browse around:  for a general purpose website, there’s a lot of good information waiting there.

And now for something completely different:

One response

  1. Joyce’s books, and all “difficult” books, are indeed like vast puzzles-within-puzzles. My wife and I were just discussing my affection for these strange and wonderful works. Not that she’s much of a fan of Finnegans Wake, or cryptic crosswords, but she realizes that if you don’t like such a puzzle, it’s not the puzzle’s fault.

    Like

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