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.