I am the kind of person who is never without a book, and my worst nightmare is getting stuck on a line or train without something to read. The teaching of reading is my profession. Living in a New York City apartment is not made any easier with the amount of books that occupy my small space. On the bookshelf next to my bed, I have 8 books “on deck,” just waiting for me to open their pages. And yet, I still find myself browsing through each bookstore I pass and having to pry myself away from titles calling my name.
But what I have found most recently is that in my voracious pursuit of the written word, I have forgotten to stop and really think about the literature that I have in front of me. I become lost and consumed by many imaginary lands and people, but I want to take them out of that moment of just reading. I want them to affect my thinking and the way I go about the world. Not that there isn’t value in those moments of reading; in fact, I think that is often the most beautiful part about reading. But at the same time, I believe that it is possible to take them with me as I step out of line, off the train, drift off to sleep or walk to make tea.
“A Kind of Library” is my attempt to respond. It might be to fiction or essays, poetry or scripture, whatever written words happen to be haunting my space. There are a thousand or more ways of looking at literature…most are intensely personal. I cannot pretend that this will not be. We all have our own lenses with which we examine what is going on about us. I will do my best to be clear and honest about my own.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay “An Experiement in Criticism:” “What then is the good of–what is even the defense for–occupying our hearts with stories of what never happened and entering vicariously into feelings which we should try to avoid having in our own person? Or of fixing our inner eye earnestly on things that can never exist..? The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself…We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own…We demand windows.”
When I look through those windows, I really am able to feel the way another has felt and by doing so, understand humanity a little bit more. The more I realize this, the more I see how important it is to glimpse into other lives; to move away from the self and truly see. C.S. Lewis is my literary hero, and his idea that “we want to be more than ourselves,” that we have a longind deep inside of us for a deeper, truer version of this world has been foundational in developing my own thoughts not just as a reader, but as a person. This will most likely be the thread that I try to unravel most often.
This blog is mostly for self-accountability purposes–I want to actively think about what I am reading in light of how I am living and what I believe. Talking about books, though, is the next best thing to reading. If you ever do want to share your thoughts, I would love to hear them.
One closing thought–
“Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?”
-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life