Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The Tale of Two Cities, and the Praise of Fiction
As I finished Dickens great tale, I reflected on how much I enjoyed it. It is sad to state that prior to January 1st 2009, I had not read a fiction work since I was forced to in as a freshman in college English Lit. (and that was a long, long time ago).
As I thought about the joy my adventures in fiction have brought me, I was wondering why such a short time ago I couldn’t stand them.
I really think that the reason that I devoured books on theology, philosophy, science . . . anything but fiction, was a warped sense of time-management and my old Evangelical eschatology. The bad thinking went like this. Novels were produced for entertainment purposes. How could I justify spending hours entertaining myself when the whole world was going to hell? I know, sad.
But after finishing Dicken’s magical work and reflecting on my friends over the past year, you know, guys like Joyce, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Vonnegut and Hemmingway, I felt that my prior thirty years had been the dark ages of my soul.
I still do love reality very much. But I don’t see novels as just entertainment anymore. I see them as secret windows into a deeper part of reality, that part which can not be captured in a photo, a movie or a diary.
When I look at the tapestry which Dickens wove with his words, I am stunned. It is the same way I’ve stood in the Louvre and am mesmerized over a Dutch realist. I must whisper outside my own head, “How do they do that?”
The words on the page were first inside the head of Dickens in the most intimate way, over a hundred and fifty years ago. He had to think them first. He had to observe them in the world around him even before that. He was able to craft the emotions the personal conflicts that no photo, movie or diary could ever capture.
Because of the works of these masters, I know men and women and the reality of them, much better. I also know myself much better.
Any time I see the beauty of human creation, art, dance, music, or writing, I know with more assurance that the Grand Creator is really there.
Posted by MJ at 5:14 PM