Finding ourselves, and others, in books

A nice piece from Colum McCann at the NYTimes on James Joyce and family memory.  I take it as a paean, of sorts, for the idea of literature as equipment for living.  An excerpt:

Vladimir Nabokov once said that the purpose of storytelling is “to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade.”

This is the function of books — we learn how to live even if we weren’t there. Fiction gives us access to a very real history. Stories are the best democracy we have. We are allowed to become the other we never dreamed we could be.

This is, in some fashion, confused, but lovely nonetheless

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One thought on “Finding ourselves, and others, in books

  1. i like the nabokov statement. art maps the objects left unseen by other disciplines of history. art evaluates the way humans in a given time feel and see each other, their contexts physical and social. it maps the isolated moments of the individual and cannonizes them for future readers to marvel. if the ability to marvel is left out, it’s not art. it’s getting the reader to marvel that counts…

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