Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Once Tackled Dracula...

After reading Latayne’s post on Monday on how fiction imprints our brains, and we crawl into the skin of protagonists, the pieces fell together for me. I started thinking of all the books that had left a ‘shadow’ on my outlook for days at a time.  I always suspected that there was a real explanation for it.  I’m not just a lightweight about certain books after all - they really were imprinting on me.

I once tackled Dracula. Figuratively speaking, of course.  I wanted to know what made it a classic.  I stared bald-eyed for several chapters like the witness of a horrific accident who couldn’t look away until a major transition came along and I finally blinked. I promptly deleted it from my Kindle.  

Later, I picked up The Historian.  I thought I could handle it, really I could, but the impressions, the shadows latched onto my brain.  I felt such a foreboding that sat heavy on my mind and needled its way into my dreams at night. The writing was very good, the tension exquisite, and I put it back on my bookshelf, leaving a superfluous character to her fate.  She was expendable and would die to prove the gravity of the situation.  I couldn’t be a witness to it.

There is nothing that says I have to let good writing go to my head.

I have to stick with books that include some measure of hope.  Intense, unpredictable and drag you close to the edge, yes, but a flicker of hope has to be present.  They can be everyday characters with nothing to recommend them except that they showed me how to live honorably in the world, making sometimes costly, sacrificial choices in the end.  

You could argue that both Dracula and The Historian have resolutions with these elements, and since I wasn’t willing to stick it out, I don’t know.  But the overriding impression was of an evil so big that I felt it dimming my normal outlook on life and that was enough for me.  It may not have been so much for you.

I guess you just have to know yourself.

One very special, positive impression that I experienced was from The Lord of the Rings (one among many).  In this day and age we greatly prize freedom, and the knowledge we have of kings and kingdoms are often as figureheads only.  But when the young hobbits swore fealty to the kings and laid their weapons at their feet, I finally understood the Bible references to Christ and His kingdom. More than understood - I felt the absolute power of it.  It’s about choosing to give up your freedom to accept the will of Someone greater.  That impression colored my outlook for a long time and was welcome.

What books have left a memorable impression on you, for good or bad? Did you stick it out? We’d love to hear.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh. So many books to discuss! SO MANY!

In college, I read A Prayer For Owen Meany. For the first time, I understood that everything Christ did took Him one step closer to giving up His life. I realized all the ways He was preparing His disciples for life *after*. After crucifixion. Resurrection. His return to heaven. My love for Jesus deepened because of John Irving's novel.

That said, I haven't found that kind of Spiritual awakening in any of his other novels.

A bad novel for me was House of Leaves It gave me horrible nightmares. Horrible. I seriously cannot remember a redeeming quality from that book.

Patti Hill said...

Many of the books that positively shadowed me are middle readers that I read as an adult. Of course The Chronicles of Narnia. I read them at 18 (and many times since). My first read-through put me smack in the middle of Narnia. I was living magic with talking horses and flute-playing fauns. I mentioned to a friend that I'd just finished the seven books and she asked, "Did you get all the the allegorical stuff about Christianity?" My answer? "Huh?" So I read them again, with the analytical part of my mind switched on. Oh! Another layer! All I have to do is see a wardrobe or a painting of a ship, and I am there with the children.

Another, more recent find, is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. A ceramic rabbit learns how to love without moving or speaking.

And so many more.

Thanks for reminding me to step back into the shadows, Debbie.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Susie, I didn't read 'Owen Meany', but the movie was powerful. Hope it came close! I'll never forget the nativity scene. Thanks for the heads up on House of Leaves...

Patti,I'm with you. I completely missed the allegory the first time
I read 'Narnia' in my early 20s. I came upon a study manual to go along with the books and read them again. Kapow! I especially loved the final book. It definitely left a positive impression on me.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Debbie, the book was a lot better than the movie. A little language...because it's John Irving.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

When I read Latayne's post a song popped into my head, "Be careful little eyes what you read...."
Like you, I have to be very careful what I read. The slightest hint of graphic evil puts my intense imagination over the edge. Timothy Finlay's Not Wanted on the Voyage was a study novel that scarred me for life. Non biblical, biblical fiction.
Not only fictional characters populate the storyspace in my brain. Biographies have allowed me to travel and starve and sweat and love. The Spitfire Women is about the ferry pilots of WWII. They fly through the dense fog in my brain to inspire me to new heights.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Henrietta, the Spitfire Women sounds like a great read. Thanks for the heads up. :-)

Cherry Odelberg said...

" But the overriding impression was of an evil so big that I felt it dimming my normal outlook on life and that was enough for me." That. Is what will make me put down a book - not turn another page. I cannot afford to let the shadow overtake me. I must survive and survive with health and hope.