Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The heart of fiction.

Hello all,

This is my first post for the blog, so I should probably introduce myself. My name is Evan, and I am one of the more recent hires at the Booksmith. When I'm not watching over the business, biography, and cultural studies sections, I may be seen haunting the dollar racks in an attempt to further my plans of living in a house made entirely out of wonderful books.

But for the past little while, ever since I started looking into David Shields' new book, Reality Hunger (we've got him coming on Monday the 29th at 7pm for a reading), I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the theory behind fiction. I love that sort of analysis and critical debate, and it can gnaw at my mind for weeks.

Like many lifelong readers, I engaged with books before I could spell. My mother read to my sister and I every night before bed, and usually the book selection was dictated by what she enjoyed. There was Seuss. There was Silverstein. But sometimes there was Tolkien or Orwell, even some Kafka when she was bored (which I only knew of for the longest time as "The Cockroach Story"). The one thing that was general among them: they had to sound good out loud. As soon as a story started to bore my sister or I, we would veto it mercilessly (Lewis Carroll got the ax, embarrassingly enough).

I think it must have been around Halloween that my mother first read us some Edgar Allen Poe. Probably she chose it to give us a bit of a scare, to play with his beautiful language and his horrifying tales. But whatever the reason, I became hooked. As soon as I could read chapter books, I got his collected works, and I struggled to understand them. If there's one writer to whom I can attribute my lasting love of fiction, it's Poe, plain and simple.

Last week, when I was busy worrying over critical theory, wondering if my writing was part of the literary movement for which Reality Hunger is the manifesto, I learned that my girlfriend hadn't read much Poe.

So I picked up a volume I had just bought, and we tucked up in bed, and I read to her, in the most psychotic voice I could muster, "The Telltale Heart." And it doesn't matter how far I feel I've come as a reader, how many books I've devoured or how many stories written. There's something perfect about a book read aloud before bedtime, one that catches your breath and just sounds right.

I'll probably still be turning over the mechanics of fiction the next time you see me, and I'm looking forward to the reading by David Shields so that all these questions and theories can turn over and over again. But I think maybe I'll take some time between the thoughts of advanced meta-fiction to read more out loud before bed. After all, "The Cask of Amontillado" is just a little further on.

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