why we read

On the bus ride to the farmer’s market, I was thinking about why we read literature. Of course, there are so many different reasons that we read, and many of these reasons sometimes contrast themselves. Some people read to escape, some read to feel, some read for pure enjoyment, some read for experiencing different worlds, etc, etc.

When thinking about specifically why I read, my mind went through a lot of the reasons listed above, but the examples, or scenes, that flowed through my mind all rather followed a pattern. I thought of Holden Caulfield sitting in the rain, watching his sister Phoebe going round and round on the carousel (The Catcher in the Rye). I thought of Buddy Glass believing that he was the fastest runner in the world, sprinting down the streets until he felt a hand grab his shoulder (Seymour – An Introduction). I thought of this strange, strange story where the narrator feeds his limbs to his mother (Sabratha). I thought of a line from my AP Lang teacher’s Happiness Writing. I thought of Franny Glass drifting into a dreamless sleep after staring at the ceiling, smiling (Franny and Zooey). I thought of a piece of sculpture (which, I realize isn’t literature, but bear with me for a second) that depicts three hands, a dark hand grabbing onto a green one, the other white one reaching for the green hand. I thought about Cathy cradling a doll, slowly dancing alone (Never Let Me Go).

All of these scenes (or, sculptures) make me feel a certain way that I don’t exactly know how to describe. There’s a strange beauty in each one of them, even the one where the son feeds his mother his own body parts.

I can’t think of any other words to describe the scenes popped into my mind except for beautiful. Exquisitely and utterly beautiful. It’s not simply the words that describe these scenes, because quite often, the language is rather plain, but the emotional attachment (or suppressing, in Buddy’s case), is what gives life to these seemingly everyday or completely foreign scenes.

“Boy, it began to rain like a bastard. In buckets, I swear to god. All the parents and mothers and everybody went over and stood right under the roof of the carousel, so they wouldn’t get soaked to the skin or anything, but I stuck around on the bench for quite a while. I got pretty soaking wet, especially my neck and my pants. My hunting hat really gave me a lot of protection, in my way; but I got soaked anyway. I didn’t care though. I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling. I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I didn’t know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could’ve been there.”

The Catcher in the Rye

I guess in the end, we’re all just sentimental fools, trying to anchor ourselves in what is really just an abyss.

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