Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Begging to be Discussed

As part of a commitment to read more "classic" literature (as in something somebody else said was of some sort of worth, as opposed to reading whatever cover catches my eye as I briskly walk through the library) I ended up with George Orwell's 1984 on my Sony eReader.  Since one of my favorite fictional topics is different governmental and societal structures, I was in philosophical heaven.  Normally, this would mean lots of introspection until I closed the back cover, and then I'd move on.
But with this book, I was instantly possessed by the desire to discuss it.  Not in "big idea" ways, but to pick apart key sentences and ask for other's opinions and interpretations.  To apply them to other factions of life.  To state my fascination and have someone disagree with me.

I bookmarked page after page, wanting to remember what I wanted to discuss.  I'm terrible with follow through, though, and I figured I'd soon forget all about it.  Two books later, and -- not so.

So I typed a list of my favorite passages and saved it for later reflection, and I figure that whenever a philosophical mood strikes me, I can choose one and have at it on my blog.  It's my blog, right?  And I always say I write it to write it, not necessarily to have it read.  So, self-indulgent as it may be, here goes:
"The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him.  In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction.  It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order.  It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden.  The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already."

I just can't agree with this statement, no matter how hard I try to think of an example of a book I've read and loved that would support the theory.  The closest I can come is to say that the best books are those that support what you already believe.  Supporting this theory would be my dad or brother in law reading a Glenn Beck book, a hopeless romantic reading a happy-ending love story, a conspiracy theorist reading, well, 1984.  I suppose a Latter Day Saint reading The Work and the Glory or Jesus the Christ.

But I don't even really believe that.

To me, the best books are those that tell you what you are unlikely to have thought of on your own.  In this way, they give you a different perspective on an issue.  Quite likely, you will read them, process them, and become more convicted in the knowledge and beliefs you already had.  Or, in the case of books where philosophy is of no concern, you will have expanded your capacity of thought, making you more capable of a higher level of thinking in the future.

The best books make you think.


coryshay said...

I'm only a few chapters into this book and there are a few sentences I've already copied down so I could think some more on them.

p.s. I agree with you. And I agree with him. I think the best books either teach you something you weren't capable of thinking of on your own, but also the best books put things into words that you have felt for a long time. They say things much better than you could have described if you were to put pen to paper.