Last night I had a class in which, in halting, impassioned language, I told my students that they would not, absolutely not, become better writers until they developed a strong and meaningful relationship with books, not to be confused with the strong and meaningful relationship they had with their significant others. I must have phrased that better than just now because no one moved, their eyes were open, and I got some contrite expressions and promises to visit the Writing and Reading Center daily.
I can remember teachers in my past making similar impassioned speeches. One handsome male teacher at Ecole L’Emania in Lausanne, Switzerland seemed to go into a trance when speaking about his all-time favorite writer, Stendhal, author of Le Rouge et Le Noir, or for those of you with rusty French, The Red and the Black. At the end of the hour, we couldn’t wait to discover Stendhal.
Perhaps the cumulative effect of all the world’s reading and writing teachers’ impassioned speeches produces interlocking ripples on the ocean that is literature. The ripples attract attention: hey, books exist, everybody. However, the power produced by the great works of dedicated writers wells up from the depths of that ocean. It is like the siren’s call–magnetic and dangerous–and how many a reader has been willing to turn away from the world, or change it, in order to follow that call!
This brings me back to Hillel Italie’s version of the Depp news, which was published in the online magazine, Salon. Her first sentence was “Johnny Depp is bringing a dash of cool to the book world.”
Excuse me while I try not to lose my lunch.
Dear Hillel Italie, you must have had an untouched life. It is sad to find a journalist who has never delved into Henry James, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, George Eliot or Tolstoy, to name a few. But it is not too late. If you google your name and happen upon this blog post, try a book by any one of these authors–and of course there are many, many others. You may come to re-define “cool” as it pertains to the book world.