He's too humble to point it out, so let us urge you to go to his site (after you've read and commented here, let's not be in too much of a hurry), subscribe, comment, and enjoy his insight, poetry, and wisdom. John will be joining us in the comment section of the blog as well.
John Blase (rhymes with maize) is a husband of one, father of three, poet, writer, editor, and part-time saint. He lives along Colorado’s Front Range with his family. His recent work includes two co-writing projects - All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir with Brennan Manning, and No Matter the Cost: Igniting a Life of Strength and Honor with Vance Brown. His own name graces the cover of Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas. He enjoys dark coffee, red wine, faded denim, and red wine.
Novels. Why do some of us keep writing them and some of us keep reading them? Its quite late really in the life of the genre, so why? Drumroll, por favor. I believe the novel makes you more human. And of all the plows you’d want to put your hand to in this life, like becoming a professional bull rider or a sommelier or a poet, the plow of becoming more human may very well be the best one.
D.H. Lawrence talks about the purpose of a novel being to extend the reader's sympathy. I like that. For example, a lower middle class poet (me) can read about a man dying of ALS (Jim Harrison’s Returning to Earth) or about two sisters being raised in Fingerbone, Idaho (Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping) or about the lifelong friendships of two married couples (Wallace Stegner’s Crossing To Safety) and to some extent I become a better person for it because I’ve entered into these lives that I have never lived and might not want to lead but nevertheless it stirs, I think, the sense of possibilities within life. The range of ways to live in part explains a novel's value, seeing how deep and wide humanity truly is. Its like meeting people at a cookout that you’ve never met and you wouldn't have gone out of your way to meet, but there they are passing you the dill pickles and they suddenly become real to you. You understand to some extent their lives, plus your own a little more, and to a greater degree this mystical incarnation we call life. Its quite beautiful, really, this becoming more sympathetic or human. It entails becoming more compassionate and friendly and sensitive. I like that.
As you might guess, the inverse here is true, as in avoiding novels tends to constrict one’s sympathy, or make you less than human. For example, I once knew a man who avoided novels his entire life and he wound up a bitter old ninnyhammer with no one to talk to but a canary and she hung around only because of the cage. The winter of his years could have been vastly different if only he’d been willing to lose himself in Kent Meyer’s The Work of Wolves or Bonnie Grove’s Talking To The Dead. The choice, of course, is up to each of us: more human or less human. But I’d hate to see you end up like that.
I must add that this same phenomenon does frequently occur via poetry, which is somewhat like a sister to the novel, a radically younger sister, you know the one who came along after you were in high school that both intrigues and terrifies you. So I conclude here with a poem of my own to extend your sympathy for me because we’ve probably never met and chances are good you wouldn’t go out of your way to meet me, but voila! here I am passing you the potato salad. Enjoy.
Review for Dad-O
Her third grade spelling list for the week includes
the words dance, wreck, fancy, and tremble.
She already knows how to spell them,
she'll ace Friday's test, 'no prob, Dad-o.'
Still, we review them, just to be sure.
As she reels off d-a-n-c-e
I see a boy who will one day soon
take heart and ask her to inhabit his world.
Maybe he'll grow on me, but I doubt it.
W-r-e-c-k will be the letters soaked in tears
as she explains 'I swerved to miss the dog, Dad-o,
but I'm o.k.'
Thank God and Jesus.
I'm no prophet but my gut tells me
she'll want the f-a-n-c-y wedding dress,
her easy days of hoodies and jeans faded
like weekly spelling lists.
Still, just to be sure, we review these omens.I try my best not to let her see me t-r-e-m-b-l-e.