the dream spirit of a story

This morning I lay in bed listening to the rain and reading the last chapter of a beloved book. Just the last chapter, just because. And its sweetness lingered in my heart all day.

But this evening I read some reviews of the book which turned my sweetness bitter. Apparently, anyone who values the book must be unintelligent because it is such a terrible book. Badly plotted, badly written, with shallow characters. Surely, the only reason the book won awards is because the writer herself is popular.




I came away from those reviews feeling foolish for loving the book. But after a while of thinking and sighing, I concluded that my experience of it had been so different from those clever reviewers because I'd read it in a very different way. I'd been completely uninterested in the author's (faulty) research, and I'd skipped most of her (unnecessary) rambles. I loved the book because of what I brought to it.

I personally believe a story belongs first and foremost to its writer. But I believe too that every writer creates two stories : the one she consciously knows, that she puts down on the page, and the dream one which works with the reader's own perspectives, thoughts, and life experiences.

That "badly written" book is treasure to me because when I was a small child in school, we had to listen to recordings of air raid sirens ... and because I was raised to be proudly British in a country which was becoming increasingly Americanised ... and because of a department store I visited ...

And even because the words of the book were brown, and they tasted like rich bread and heavy honey.

Not knowing the book I'm talking about, you won't understand why it evoked those thoughts. But even knowing the book, you still might not understand. That's my point - we are all as readers completely unique.




(A caring writer is surely aware on some level that her story has a dream-spirit, and will let it flow beneath her consciousness, through her sentences. What a privilege for her, to be able to put something into the world that will become so much more than her own vision, her own words!)

There's another book I own which is such trash, I skim most of it. However, it contains a few scenes I read over and again. I'd never admit to loving the book, I'd be too embarrassed. But at the same time it has given me pieces of a story that my own heart transforms into beautiful magic.

How can we judge people on what they read when we don't know the story they are experiencing in the profoundly unique environment of theiir heart? And how can we savage a book just for the words on the page without pondering how we, each of us, met its spirit?


Elsewhere on the subject of reading.



15 comments:

  1. Reviews... -sigh- Reviews of everything...

    Why reviews? Maybe money, yet again. People don't want to spend, for something they might not like. And not having the intestinal fortitude to make up their own minds, they create the industry of "Reviews". To make up their minds, for them.

    How-very-sad-and-silly... Needing to have someone else, make up our mind, about what we may enjoy. How-very-sad-and-silly...

    Those who use Reviews totally, will never find, what you speak of here.

    Their loss...

    Gentle hugs,
    Tessa

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    1. I must confess, I have always been so grateful to the people who have reviewed my books, although I know that is entirely my ego speaking! :-) The best way to find out if you will like a book or not is to borrow it from the library if you can and decide for yourself.

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  2. I'm glad you said this. I know it's silly, but I've done the same thing, enjoyed a book then felt bad about it after reading the reviews.

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  3. Reviewers can sometimes present quite a sterile point of view, many leaving out the very heart and soul of a book in order to weigh in on a sometimes jaded, academic and acerbic perspective. They are also responsible for their high praises which can catapult unknown authors to fame, but I believe that some have lost their sense of fair play. Meanwhile, there isn't a soul out there that can honestly tell you anything about your interaction with a book that you've enjoyed. That's up to you.

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    1. Yes, so true. The review I read yesterday definitely did leave out the heart of the book in question, and simply could not understand why the public voted for it to win great awards. I'm willing to bet people voted because they did experience the heart of it.

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  4. "For it is in The Simple Act of Reading where the living and the dead, the real and the imagined, meet. It is in The Simple Act of Reading where we exercise those two most sacred of human vocations: compassion and creativity. For as we know, without either of these primes there is no possibility for a humanity present or past worth talking about."
    Junot Diaz

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  5. I love this post, Sarah. I am fond of YA lit (which makes sense, given my age), but because it's often regarded as weak literature I find myself avoiding it. Really, though, shouldn't we read what we love and ignore other people's opinions? This is something I struggle with very much.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Ha, I deleted my comment because it ended up being a review of YA lit and that seemed a tad hypocritical ;-) Mainly I was saying that I sympathise with you. And there is some really amazing and strong literature in the YA category. Melina Marchetta is my favourite example.

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  6. Every book we read we bring our own feelings and interpretations to it. Sometimes it can be just the odd paragraph that keeps us reading - I try not to take notice of reviewers as they cannot know what you want out of a book. A well thought out post Sarah.

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    1. Thank you. I have to smile though because it wasn't really a well thought out post. I wrote it in ten minutes late at night after a very tiring day. I had nothing better to say, so I wrote this :-)

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  7. exactly…so i rarely recommend books to anyone as i'm always afraid they'll think i'm crazy for liking or loving something they find horrible. we are all truly unique in what we like, how we read, what we read, why we read and most certainly, what we take away from what we've read…..xo

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  8. I usually read the reviews before reading the book but I think it's all personal perferences, we all have different taste and different way of thinking so one might mean the world to one person and nothing at all to another.

    if I were you, I would dismiss the reviewers, there's just too much bad vibes in the world, we really do not need more.

    hope you have a lovely day.

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