Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Learning about life from literature
At the O. Henry prize reading at Kepler's last night, an audience member mentioned that Lorrie Moore recently said she'd learned more about life from reading literature than from life itself. Or something like that. Anyway the writers (Andrew Altschul, Jan Ellison, and Susan Straight) generally expressed surprise at that comment. Good writing comes from living life, they said; although they also suggested that reading teaches you how to give shape and power to your stories. It's an easy notion to dismiss (especially out of context)--here's another bookworm who's never gone out and embraced real life. But I wonder if the emphasis should be on the nature of learning. Without literature we might not have the tools to reflect well on our experiences. Why is it that Freud turned to Oedipus, not to mention the Sandman, to explain key psychoanalytic concepts?