Have you ever feared reading?
I’m not talking about being scared of actually reading. I’m talking about the actual text that is to sit in your hands. You’ll open the cover, find the first page with the core content, and you’ll begin to processes the piece of art.
Really. That. Simple.
I found The Crack-Up at Unnameable Books, which is a used book shop that sits at 600 Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, New York. It called out to me, the compilation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s essays and letters. Without truly reading a damn thing about it or out of it, the paperback was purchased.
It’s not the same type of excitement that one may have for the latest release of a book in a series. Everyone anticipated each book in Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Rowling has since done marvelous work, and I can’t wait to really enjoy her work when that moment arises. It hasn’t yet, but it’s about to. The type of fear is knowing that what you’re about to read is quality. When I finally pick up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it’s going to be overwhelming in the sense that I’m not going to want to put it down, and the excitement will continue to blossom to the very last page of The Deathly Hollows.
It’s just not my time for the series yet.
Last night, I picked up The Crack-Up. I read the first paragraph of the first essay, “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” before immediately shutting the book. The excitement was so overwhelming to the point where it felt like a punch to the gut that knocked the wind out of me. Despite it not hurting or generating unprecedented pain to the point of crying. But eyes well up. The paragraph, the sample,
was is so savory that if this were the last thing I could read, I’d die a happy person.
The paragraph–those words–is nothing really that special. It’s Fitzgerald.
Oh, but Chris, you’re up-in-arms out about nothing. It’s a book.
It’s not just a book. It’s part of the essence of life, a passage of time that my generation, my parent’s generation, and future generations will never have the opportunity to experience. There are documentaries, compiled nonfiction and letters, but it’s all or third hand. It’s classic literature on pages that are bound in a flimsy cover. Trees were killed to make this book, but their spirits are probably relieved that this text has been created from their sacrifice.
This doesn’t need a battery to work, but you need to shut down your mind, your worries to enjoy.
Every time I read a classic author, it’s found difficult to not put myself down. You want to write? I ask myself in the third person. You cannot write as beautifully as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Poe, Dickinson, or whoever. I tell myself in the third person.
But I write anyway. The effort, the doubt is given the ol’ one-two right to the kisser. The challenge is accepted. It makes me a better person, the passion and the work toward it. Life is boring without it. May the soulless find peace.
It’s a perfect kind of pain that you want the rest of the world to experience. It’s like a sore tooth, hurting so good to the point where you keep poking at it.
This is why I write. It is evident that I’m probably not going to write pieces of art that aren’t as equally moving. Maybe I will one day. Fitzgerald, in that first essay, talks about that one piece of literature that demonstrates the impact of the writer. It’s what you do with that success from then on out. Do you fade? Do you turn over a new leaf from how you were, progressing in personality–there is a price to pay for better or for worse–or do you follow a path of desolation. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder either.
We write, because we want to be heard. It’s selfish that statement, but it’s partially true. Why else? Writers like to show off their skill, their way with words. However, we write, because we also want to inspire. We love reading and writing so much that we want others to be moved, to try to feel that passion that we feel. We, as writers, want to bring to life that same passion outside of our work.
I’m never going to level out with Fitzgerald, monetary and emotionally, but I’m going to have fun trying to reach that point as ephemeral as those inconsistent moments are.
We fear reading, because we don’t know how it’s going to change us for the better. It’s intimidating to think that you’re going to get emotionally attached to a story. And trying something new is just as risky. When you know that you’re going to love something, your fingers will be singed, and you’ll want a paper cut, and you may even want to bleed a couple small droplets on the page.
Who doesn’t want to be a part of something moving?
What literature moves you?