LitLove has another interesting (per usual) post up, this time about literature’s insidious effects, particularly on a human being’s desire for a “solvable conundrum.”
The post made me think about my own “dangerous” encounters with literature, and how I came to find out things I didn’t want to know (but perhaps needed to know nonetheless).
Nobody warned me that hey, Humbert Humbert does not ultimately regret what he did to Dolores Haze. Sure, the author regrets it, and, I hope, the reader. But Humbert’s “confession” is a fake. “I was a pentapod monster, but…” Humbert’s invocation of art and the way he casts himself as the man who will immortalize Lolita for the masses is sick, cruel, barbaric, and self-indulgent. And Nabokov knows that, and he relishes, I believe, the momentary chance to fool the reader into believing that any sort of repentance has taken place (belledame has a few good things to say about Lolita as well).
Two times in a row, Donna Tartt has lulled me into a stupefied admiration for her visual glories, birch trees at night, warm summer evenings in the South, only to clobber me over the head later on with all that is ugly and unimaginably unsympathetic (and yet oddly fascinating) in the human heart that occupies these magical vistas of hers. I don’t think she likes her characters very much, not because they are bad creations, but because they are bad people (or perhaps not bad, just real). There is something painful and familiar about the characters, occupying all these rich (not necessarily beautiful, but incredibly vivid) settings, and yet ultimately revealing themselves to be grey and dim and downright nasty on the inside. It’s like stopping to admire the campus clocktower in the twilight, one of my favourite activities as I walked back to my dorm in my junior year, only to remember that this jerk I didn’t like happened to live in it.
And Wuthering Heights, of course, was supposed to have a happy ending. Except, of course, the happy ending seemed to be an elaborate joke, and the clouds of jealousy and necrophilia still hung, low and ominous, on my horizon after I snapped it shut. Consequently, my paper on it sucked.
The beautifully built structures of literature can be frightening places to occupy, especially after dark, which makes me glad that I still have the fuzzy, anti-intellectual distraction of network television to fall back on. Well, that, and alcohol and Elektronik Supersonik (Buagaga, as we say back in ze Eastern Europe).