Discovering the Relevance of Words
When Joey Tribiani reads The Shining, he has to put the book in the freezer and take a break during the really scary parts.
Rachel later convinced (convinces? Do television shows take place in the present tense even if they’ve been off the air for close to a decade?) him to read Little Women and he is worse than scared. He becomes emotional, not just sensationally, invested. Beth is sick and it doesn’t look like there’s anything they can do… so he puts the book in the freezer to keep himself safe.
On July 16, 2005 I wish I would have had a freezer cold enough to numb what I knew had been coming for six books as I paced through my living room reading and rereading the chapter The Lightning Struck Tower in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.
I was way too old to be distressed by this. I had seen this coming. I expected Dumbledore to die during Sorcerer’s Stone or Chamber of Secrets. Yet, there I was unable to sleep after finishing the book. I sat up a good portion of the night rereading for clues and answers. Why did this happen now? What will make it all okay? Is Snape the world’s most powerful dark wizard playing both sides against the middle or are he and Dumbledore willing to sacrafice everything to stop Voldemort/save Harry? And where, oh where, are these Horcruxes? (I tried rereading key chapters from each book, convinced there was one in each of the 7).
I found my way to Mugglenet’s discussion boards and wandered into a room that had *Spoiler Alert* as a description. This was the room for people who had finished HBP and needed consoling, needed answers, needed to mourn and vent and rant.
After a while I found myself consoling a small handful of readers- convincing them all was not lost, that hope will always be given to those who ask for it, citing evidence from the text and referring back to her oft-used literary techniques. It was somewhere at this point that I realized I was probably 1.5-2x as old as my fellow chatters. My thoughts at the time were mixed between “what a loser” and “I need to stop taking my work home with me” (I was a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at the time). Looking back now, my perspective shifts away from myself a bit and toward that 12 or 13 year old who had started the series as a child, had grown with these characters, looking up to these characters, and not having the outside perspective of the formulaic hero-quest and death of the mentor to lean upon.
If, as a 25 year old with a degree in English and a Master’s in Teaching (specific to English and Theatre) I experienced such distress at an event I should easily have been able to rationalize, what must it have been like for a reader Harry’s age (or younger). If I had been so pulled into the events (so pulled in that I am a little ashamed to be admitting all of this), what must it have been like for young readers who had yet to take Studies in Fiction, et. al.?
This completely fictional event changed lives.
That is the power of fiction. That is the power of truth. That is the power of words.
If you were to ask me my favorite book I would vacillate between answering Fight Club or The Great Gatsby. I used to include The Catcher in the Rye in the rotation, but I think there comes a time -probably somewhere around the midtwenties- when you have to outgrow that one (don’t get me wrong, still an AMAZING book -but it shouldn’t speak to you as personally as an adult as it does as an adolescent).
The poetic prose of Fight Club is beautiful. Reading the book is an extremely enjoyable process. Your eye is dragged through the story word by word, expertly crafted paragraph by paragraph.
Though a dramatically different style, Fitzgerald’s prose brings Gatsby’s world to life and makes the world jump off of the page.
However, it is theme that draws me toward these two books. And, though they appear very different, they are the same book (thematically).
Manifest your own destiny.
Reinvent yourself. You are Tyler Durden; You are Jay Gatsby.
Believe in the green light- this is not a weekend retreat…
Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart- but that’s no matter, tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…
This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time- so we beat on, boats against the current . . .
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-I put no asterisks or SPOILER ALERT warnings for anything included here. The most recent book referenced came out eight years ago. Dumbledore dies, Beth dies, Jack dies, Gatsby dies, Tyler dies, I will die and so will you- but how, my friend, does that spoil anything?
Hey, hey, hey, here’s Joey reading Little Women