should we go there?

by Andrea Elizabeth

I saw this quote on Facebook, and it’s got me thinking:

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.” ― Franz Kafka

On one hand I say no, what about beauty? What about ‘whatever is good, of just repute, etc, think on these things?’

But is insulating ourselves completely from disturbing things not escapist? What about people who have been through horrendous things and need to tell their story? One reason I’m not completely against profanity – though I don’t use it – is that it does seem to sometimes cut through the fat and get deeper in the heart. That’s how Stephen King uses it, I think. What if beauty is coming through on the other side of difficult things, not unscathed, but more able to see shades of light after becoming more acquainted with shades of darkness? To proceed from naive to knowing and remain innocent. Somehow. I’m sure it’s hard to do.