Okay…..I’m picking up a theme that a couple of my blogging colleagues did on “summer reading.” And in light of the recent passing of Gore Vidal, I’ll talk about some of my favorite novel reading over the summer. On the news last night, an old interview was shown where Vidal was mourning the loss of the novel and a reading public. What do we lose when we lose the art of reading a novel?
We lose the wonder of multiple stories that are contained in good novels. With multiple stories, we meet a variety of characters whose lives are intertwined. We know these characters because of how they are described by others, how they appear in novels, what they do, and how we respond to them. We lose the ability to pay attention. Good novels require us to pay attention to details, even as we wait for the element of surprise. We have to suspend judgement as we anticipate the plot to unfold and for characters to develop. It takes time to attend to a good novel, something that is diminishing in value in our fast-paced culture of the quicker the better. Good novels invite us into new worlds. Some of these worlds may be completely new to us; others are familiar yet unknown in terms of the new angles and perspectives that are offered. Good novels place stories in contexts, introducing us to histories and events and the significant ways in which they shape people and propel people to act. Good novels remind us that every person matters in the story.