Monday, June 6, 2011

Door to Another World

I always think of books as doors into other worlds -- another time, another place, another person's experience. If the book is well written, I'll expect to absorb the details of that other world, to assimilate them into my own experience.

So I'm sometimes reluctant to begin a book that will drop me into a place I know I wouldn't want to be -- present day Afghanistan, for instance, or Wall Street, or Nazi Germany. So much more pleasant to read about nice people in a charming village in the Cotswolds.

Occasionally though, usually after hearing enough recommendations, I'll brave up. And usually I'm rewarded. For example,I'm glad to have read Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities and Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. My fund of experience has been deepened -- and all without the bother and danger of travel to unfriendly places.

My recent visit to Nazi Germany was equally rewarding.


This beautifully imagined tale, fittingly narrated by a compassionate and poetic Death, centers around a young German girl and her foster family  -- and their decision to hide a Jew.  It's a beautiful story of how strangers become a family, how the the most ordinary of people can rise to heroism, and how the written word can change lives.

I'm glad I went through the door.
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15 comments:

Jon Lee said...

I read The Book Thief last summer and fell in love with it. I added it to the sophomore booklist at school. The students were quite receptive to it and gave it rave reviews. I know what you mean about opening that door. I haven't read The Kite Runner yet because I don't know if I want to open that door, but maybe I will. I'm glad I read The Things They Carried, but it was a harrowing tale.

NCmountainwoman said...

Wouldn't you know? Some schools are trying to ban this book because it is narrated by the devil. All the more reason for me to read it. I also find it difficult to start reading a book that puts me in a dark place.

Vicki Lane said...

Jon Lee -- I thought The Things They Carried was beautifully written but it became too harrowing for me and I wimped out. Book Thief, partly because of its surreal narrator, is a kinder. gentler read.

NCMtnwoman -- Words, or should I say, polite words, fail me re some school boards.

Brian Miller said...

kite runner was good, as was the things they carry...have yet to read the book thief though...will put that on my list of dorrs for the summer...smiles.

Mel said...

When I started The Book Thief, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but I'm so glad I stayed with it. I found it very moving and count it among my favorite reads. I agree with your reluctance to read certain books because you know how painful they will be. I try to balance them with non-fiction or happier novels, do I don't get depressed!

Barbara Rogers said...

I just finished "Rosemary for Remembrance" an historical novel based in Salem, NC with many Moravian insights. Very educational.

Martin H. said...

I have a mountain of books 'to read'. The mountain just got higher.

Reader Wil said...

I have the same feelings you have Vicki! I am reluctant to read books about war, concentration camps or cruelty and discrimination against other people, but I enjoyed reading "The Kiterunner"and "A Thousand Splendid Suns", because the main characters are so strong that they eventually survive.
I also like Oxford and C.S.Lewis and Tolkien, who were friends .

Friko said...

I have also very recently read it, it is wonderful; for me as a post-war German it is a very poignant story, beautifully told.

I find war stories very difficult to read; I admit to opting for escapism very often, but then I get tired of pap and delve into something more nourishing. Girly books are a definite turn-off.

Vicki Lane said...

Friko -- I thought often of you as I read this, wondering if you had read it.

pat said...

The Kite Runner is one of my all time favorite books. Although it was a hard place to be, the kite runners managed to find a little joy and bravado amongst the terror that ruled their days. Great book. I have been wanting to read The Road, but I feel the same way, not sure I want to go with a father and son in a post-apocalyptic America.

JJRod'z said...

i am starting to go back to my reading... having read this post have given me ideas on what books are next on my list. and yes you are right, books bring as to other time, other place. nice post...

jj

Deanna said...

I also tend to avoid books about places I don't ever want to go. You hit on a few. Rape and abuse are two more. So why is it that murder mysteries are ok to me? I have to think it is because I don't really go there. It is just a story and not reality to me.

Blogs are doors into another world. Thank you for inviting me into yours!

Tri-County Critter Sitters said...
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Susan M. Bell said...

I recently read "The Book Thief" myself and loved it as well. Great book. I hope they don't ever make it into a movie as there is no way they could do it justice. I sometimes like to give books away after I read them, or donate them to the local thrift shop or library book sale, but this one is staying on my shelf to be read again.