Unreasonable Words: Literature, no damn good for you anyway.

From a new blog I’ve discovered: A Piece of Monologue. (Great blog, could use a better name.)

Kafka on what to read:

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.”

Novelists hard at work taking an axe to the frozen sea within their readers.

Only those books? Really, Franz? No room for P.G. Wodehouse? No Terry Prachett or Simenon? Perhaps some reading has “banished me into a forest far from everyone…” but taking an axe to my personal “frozen sea” is a tough sell. A friend couldn’t sleep for days after reading Lear for the first time. I had a hard time getting through it. Bartelby did do me in, still does. As does the moment in Götterdämmerung when Waltraute tries to guilt Brunhilde into giving up the ring. (Weird choice, I realize given the many more cosmic, and far more beautiful, moments in Wagner.) But cleaving me in twain, a la Kafka, not so much.

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