SHOOTING THE BREEZE
By Eric C. Forbes
WHAT CAN I SAY, I am addicted to books. I love books like hell. Some people call it a disease, but a good disease. Joe Queenan would understand what I’m talking about. At one time, he was reading 25 books simultaneously. I walk into a good bookstore and am immediately seduced by the variety of good books that I must own no matter what.
Why do we read literature? We read literature because they make us better human beings. We learn about morals, history and civilisation. We learn about empathy and humility. We learn about pain, loss and joy, deceit and arrogance, irony and contradiction, violence, reason and free will, identity, guilt, religious beliefs, tolerance and forgiveness. We learn about racism and the superficiality and shallowness of human conduct. We learn about the flaws and frailties of human nature and how they bring about the downfall of the human race through the ages. Good stories inspire us to lead and live better lives. That’s what good books do. If we do not become better human beings after a lifetime of reading and learning, literature has failed us. Literature becomes irrelevant. “What good is a life that doesn’t experience some trace of all possible lives?” a character in Don DeLillo’s play, Love-Lies-Bleeding (Scribner, 2006) asks towards the end. “What’s the point of being only who we are?” This is why we read. And we learn. Sadly, most of us don’t.