Thursday, 26 July 2012

Consolation Prizes, They Ain't

'Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add to our sorrow.'

This line comes from the character Black in Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red. I've become a fan of Pamuk in recent years, ever since reading his tender memoir Istanbul: Memories of a City

Then I read Pamuk's The New Life, a metaphysical thriller about a guy who reads a life-changing book. Feeling somewhat more appreciative of spirituality in the last couple of years, I enjoyed the wisdom within.

However, I disagree with the quote in bold. 

Do books add to sorrow? 
Not in my opinion. It depends what you read. I don't read harrowing biographies or novels, but I'm pretty sure that despite all the tragic events in them, they become more positive towards the end and inspire the reader. 

The closest I got to this kind of book was reading the Angela's Ashes trilogy by the pioneer of miserable literature, the late Frank McCourt. I loved it. And far from depressing me, the trilogy introduced me to literature I'd not read before, namely Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment (which I thought was brilliant!), and new observations on life.  

What do books do for us, then? (Or why I love them so much!)
The obvious answer is, they educate. You don't have be an astrophysicist to know that.

But not only do they educate. Far from add to any sorrow, they inspire me. Whether it's a fiction novel, a blog post, a business biography, a reference book on an area of interest, or a 'smart thinking' book... I feel inspired to write and by what I'm reading and what I'm learning from them. If the person who wrote the book can be that brilliant at writing or whatever else they specialise in, then so can I!

As well as educate, books broaden our (mental) horizons and provide us with different perspectives on the world. Though we may not always realise it, they develop our capacity for thought, even if we might not be trying to solve a mind puzzle or contemplating a piece of philosophy at the time. 

And books do offer consolation. When we're feeling bad, there are books out there that can help lift us out of the mire, books by people who have been through what we have. By reading others experiences and their ideas, we can also make sense of our own lives, not to mention life itself. Well, maybe some of it, at least!

Books are an aid to a lifelong project
That project goes by the name of happiness. They may have added to Black's sorrow in My Name is Red, but, for the reasons above, they've enriched this blogger's happiness.

Life is a learning curve, and when  the teachers and the lecturers are gone, you've still got to learn from someone. Books can help you live the life you want to lead, both personally and professionally. 

And I think here is where I'll end the lesson for today....!

No comments:

Post a Comment