Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I mentioned previously that I've been reading as much as F. Scott Fitzgerald as time will allow. I just finished This Side of Paradise and find myself in quite an excited state. Fitzgerald's last line made me want to go back and read the entire book again, which is ironic because about 150 pages ago all I wanted to do was put the whole mess down. In many ways, this book turned my brain inside-out, shocked me with statements that are apt for situations of today, and (to put it most simply) just made me feel.

I have been thinking a lot lately about books. Why do we write them? And why do we read them? What exactly do I expect when I pick a book up? For me, the answer is at the very least vague. I look at the books I've loved in recent weeks: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Michael Weisskopf's Blood Brothers, Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, Daniel J. Levitin's This Is Your Brain on Music, John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes, Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, Dan Savage's The Commitment, Ben Rice's Pobby and Dingan, Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle, and of course, The Great Gatsby. I can't find a common theme here. There's nonfiction and metafiction and just plain fiction. There's war and poverty and love and mystery and science. I don't think that reading any one of those books and enjoying it would automatically make someone recommend another from my list.

As I think (and ramble here) I realize that the way I feel after finishing This Side of Paradise is just incredibly open. It's a physical response. It's almost like falling in love, but instead of falling in love with a person I've fallen in love with an aspect of humanity that has been represented to me in a brilliant light. I've connected with the outside world while inside my own home (or in today's case, while walking from 31st Street to 49th Street and trying my best not to get hit by a car or trip over a crack in the sidewalk, all the while dogearing pages that I want to go back and underline or notate later.) But with this book, I feel as if I have connected to a distant self, the person I was not too long ago, maybe only one or two years ago, trying to make sense of the life I had stumbled into.

Can I boil it down to one word? Do we read and write simply for connection, whether it be for connection to a part of our selves, to someone else, or to the greater world? I'm about to leave to run a few errands. I guess I'll contemplate my questions on my walk to errand #1: the library.

1 comment:

Jules the Crazy said...

i wish i had an intelligent comment to add to your insight about books, but sadly, all i have to say is: i love books. books are like treasure, and libraries are like gold mines--free books! that's one of the things our country has done right, if not enough.