Literature Notes #002

My notes as a reader on:

Failing to read a text

In order to learn a lot, I need to read a lot. And now that I have the keys on how to read and enjoy fiction, I am doing just that. I have picked up an exquisite collection of „50 great short stories“ edited by Milton Crane. If you start with no clue, you can start anywhere with any author really.

What I quickly found out is that there’s more to the much dreaded „language barrier“ that readers like me with English as a second language face. In fact, usually it is not the language itself; I find myself lacking the cultural and historical knowledge to follow and appreciate everything that I’m presented. I combat this by reading up on the authors and the times they lived in as well as the times they wrote about. Also, I should probably do that for German texts as well. I might think I know my own culture, but what if I don’t? After all, what I was taught in school does not reflect everything there is and everything there has been and it is up to me to learn more about it.

But research cannot fix everything. There are some works that I still fail to enjoy. And if I don’t enjoy them, my willingness to finish reading them suffers, too. I find myself refusing just like a child would refuse to finish eating a meal it does not like. Schumann from my writing craft handbook would probably say it is my duty to still push through as I am reading to learn, not to enjoy. But is this really the way? The least I can do is trying to understand what makes a work not palatable to me and avoid doing the same in my own works if I can.

Literature Notes #001

My notes as a reader on:

E.M. Forster The Other Side of the Hedge

This is a short story about death and dying and an outlook on the concept of paradise you wouldn’t have expected. It is fascinating how a whole place is created with few brushstrokes and you can’t miss the rich symbolism, while the author avoids any clichees, even when introducing a man with a scythe towards the end.

The most powerful sentence for me is „(My late brother) had wasted his breath on singing, and his strength on helping others.“

I might disagree on the assessment of the narrator as I’m more of this brother type myself, but i don’t want to judge, as I can understand where this asssessment is coming from. In fact, probably every one of us has tendencies for both of these siblings in them. You do want to help but you also need to take care of yourself.

Reading how the narrator loses the race of life in their own view, sinks through the cracks and into a secluded garden… I feel like this sometimes, too, lately. It might be something universal of this part of the journey of life. You are painfully conscious of your ageing and dying sometimes, aware your loved ones will not be eternal either, while you still have the doubts in your head whether your life’s mission will work out or not. It is an ungrateful place where your youthful goals and dreams still carry you or at least you still remember the star you are following, while you are starting to understand that you cannot race forward forever. And you have not „made it“ yet. Maybe you never will. Will you regret the journey though? I certainly will not regret mine. Not all riches that can be won on such an endeavor are tangible.