August 30, 2009

What he said

by Timothy Findley

Maybe it would be best not to read this until The Diviners has had a chance to sigh and to settle; until you, yourself, have had a chance to sigh and settle.

My friend and I have a rule when we go to plays and movies: neither of us is allowed to talk when the play or movie is over if we perceive the other has been upset or moved by what we've just seen. Surely there's nothing worse than somebody breaking in on your own reflections with: "Wow! What a piece of garbage!" Or even with: "Wasn't that terrific!" It doesn't really matter whether the voice breaking in agrees with you or disagrees. The point is, the only voice that matters when an experience is over is the voice of the experience itself.

A psychologist once remarked that what we experience in dreams can be just as affecting - whether for ill or for good - as what we experience in what we call "reality". Books can hit us hard - or leave us cold. We can set the book aside and say: "I forget." Or we can close the covers and know we will always remember what is between them. Books, like dreams, are essentially private realms. Nothing should be allowed to detract from each person's right to read a book privately and to interpret it freely in the light of what each person has experienced and knows of life. This is why what we receive from critics can be so dangerous. Not that critics are inevitably wrong; only that critics forget, too often, to remind us they speak only for themselves.

That's what I was trying to get at here, and managed to say so poorly. The fact that everything I have to say has already been said, been said more clearly and articulately....strangely liberating. And this right here is why I feel so sorry for those people who don't read, who deliberately chose not to dream, not to experience, not to seek out those rare moments when the words on a page reach out and give your soul the gentle fist bump of understanding. If more people would just pick up a good book - not "a book that lies: a book that clouds or obscures the truth with sentimental claptrap or mind-easing platitudes", maybe there would be less Dr Phil and Prozac, a little more sigh and settle.


TMCPhoto said...

Mr. Findlay's afterward for The Diviners is one of my favourite afterwards and The Diviners is one of my all time favourite novels.

I'm a story junkie, a sucker for a good narrative. I've been burned by a less than stellar book here and there and just like when you get burned in a personal relationship you pull back a little and dig in with the friends you know have your back. I tend to grab at a good author and devour their library. If they are really good I read and re-read. In other cases I take advice from these same authors.

I love Nick Hornby, I've read and re-read his books and love them each time I read them. He writes some of the best book reviews I've ever read and some of his picks are now on my re-read list.

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