i've been thinking about burdens -- the burdens of authors, of readers, of literature -- because i stumbled across a paper* (or something) written about a topic i admit i don't remember (which makes this a terrible introduction) -- what i remember was a mention of chang-rae lee and how he fails to "give back" to korea/korean-america (based off his debut novel, native speaker; i do remember the paper was written before a gesture life). i probably should have actually read this paper to ascertain the writer's point more clearly, but it was honestly just that claim that stuck with me because i couldn't help but wonder, but what does it mean? to "give back" to your ethnic community? and is that a burden that should fall on authors [of color]? and in what ways? to what extent?
i've been thinking about the burden of literature, too, how certain books are given more weight than others, and how that can or might affect how we decide about what we read, like in feeling obligated to pick up certain books. and how that in and of itself could influence how we read certain books, burdened as we are with all this attached "goodness" and "worthiness" -- and maybe this sounds foolish and of no consequence, but do you ever wonder why you read the things you do?
two friends and i touched on this topic this past weekend over brunch, and it reminded me of what chang-rae lee said at his reading at greenlight a few weeks ago -- that we should interrogate ourselves as readers. (okay, he was talking in the context of himself as a writer also interrogating himself as a reader, but i think we should all interrogate ourselves as readers.) a few years ago, i had to make the conscious effort to read outside my comfort zone, to read more diversely, because, for one, i felt like i'd fallen into a rut in my reading life and, for another, why was i reading so much from one group when there is such a richness of reading material available? and i could still stand to challenge myself further, but it's been a better reading life thus far, i dare say, though now i'm trying to loop this back to the burden of literature and kind of struggling to do so ...
* i most likely grossly misrepresented this paper, for which i sincerely apologize.
i come from a world that openly and vocally dismisses the novel as something that has no use or value. the novel is a mark of immaturity because mature, grown people move on from the novel and read essays and philosophy and non-fiction (or, rather, they read books on faith and how to live a good christian life and such) because essays and philosophy and non-fiction (or theology and religious discourse and christian thinking) have a "tangible" use in "furthering" and "bettering" them and helping them "grow."
to which i say, how small your minds are, when the worlds of novels contain multitudes, the stories we might not want to hear because they pain us or disgust us or shame us, the histories that others have sought to erase, the voices that have been silenced or exploited or manipulated. when novels wrestle with what it is to be human in all its complications and richness and lay bare for us the spectrum of human longing and suffering and love and the universality of the human condition -- we are not so different from each other as some might have us, might desire us to believe.
and, to those who dismiss the novel and toss christian texts in my lap, i say, well, christ understood the value of stories, too.
was that a lot for a monday post? it's been a long week, though, and i find myself a bit weary. the blizzard last week was anticlimactic, tapering off before getting anywhere close to the foot or two or three of snow we were supposed to receive. there was snow, though, eight inches of it, and i did so revel in it because, like i said, i love snow, and the world is a magical place after snow.
and then it turns to slush. and/or ice.
one of my closest friends is visiting the city this weekend, and i'm loads excited for it. we're going to eat and walk and visit all my favorite places, and we're going to talk about books and our stupid, foolish ambitions and the good wife. she's probably going to freeze because she's from california, and i'm going to laugh because i told her to buy a beanie (she's refusing), and she's probably going to declare her hatred of new york city vehemently over and over again, and i'm going to laugh some more. all while we eat and walk and eat and walk some more ...
basically, it's going to be a good weekend. >:3
(and i already broke my resolution to read a book in korean every month ... damn!)