The start of the semester is drawing nigh. Syllabi are being reviewed and refined and crumpled and redone and reviewed and…
Any writer will recognize the process: just another facet of the writing game. Syllabi, synopses, lesson plans… it’s all about writing.
And yet there’s writing and then there’s writing.
For me, part of getting ready for the upcoming semester is (re)reading Literature. But a bona-fide, certified, capital *L*. And sometimes a drop-cap ornate L. As in, the Masters.
And every time I (re)read a Master’s work, I am faced with the same question: what is this mysterious thing that makes their stories so readable, so fascinating and complex, even though they are so completely NOT the type I’d pick for entertainment?
Because, you know what? Once I open a Master’s work, I am entertained. I’m entertained by the narrative itself, the eminently readable text; by the storyline, and the what-happens-next element. I am drawn in by the struggles or the characters (even when the characters annoy me, because, like slightly irritating dear old friends, I keep wishing they’ll wake up).
I am enterained by READING.
Not just by a mere little story, but by a whole world of people who postulate theories of life, and of conflicts that are reflections of much larger and more numerous conflicts of the mind and spirit… and history, the universe, and everything.
But first and foremost, I am ENTERTAINED. I have FUN.
If that wasn’t the case, I couldn’t teach anyone about these authors and their books.
I have FUN READING.
Now did I mention that my Masters and Classics and the authors I teach are Russian writers? Yes, the supposedly interminable Tolstoys and Dostoievskys and dreary Chekhovs.
And did you know you could have FUN reading War and Peace? Or Crime and Punishment?
(Should any students of mine stumble upon this blog, let me reassure them: neither of these books are on the reading list for Fall 2015).
But really: those books were written as entertainment.
Oh sure, Tolstoy had theories of the universe to test and to prove to his readers. But he didn’t choose rational rhetorics and academic grandiloquence to convey them.
He chose STORY.
He chose to entertain us with a tale in the oldest tradition in the world.
And Dostoievsky? He wrote to live, and his philosophy of life exploded from his novels. But as he wrote to make a living, he also wrote to sell books, and therefore to entertain and incite readers.
Those books are fun to read. Not as easy as a Tweet or a Facebook post, but in the long run, much more rewarding.
And yes, some days, I have to remind myself of the fact, because I also love to read science fiction, and fantasy, and romance, and graphic novels, and my Facebook feed, and news, and… wait, I meant to brush up on that one technique for that software… That means I read software documentation, too.
I guess I’m lucky — or blessed — that there’s something in my life that makes me revisit the Great Masters.
Now that I’m thinking about all those books… There’s a few I haven’t re-read in quite a few years. Let me see…