Lit Lib: Good to Great in Literature
May 02, 2012
A good book has to do something to be likeable. If it is just about describing the same people doing the same things every day without a conflict, then it can get pretty boring. There are plenty of books that provide entertaining storylines and characters that the reader can really get into. There’s no point in arguing that; there are plenty of goods books out there. However, the barrier between a good book and a great book is a hurdle that few authors manage to climb over.
A good book takes you to some other place, allows you to meet people that you would never otherwise see, and brings you back home with a feeling of wholeness. At the end of the book, you are somehow left feeling complete, satisfied with how either the characters resolve all problems and get their happy ending, or they meet with a poetic tragedy that touches your heart.
Interestingly enough, a great book does nearly the opposite. It is said that a person only looks at a piece of art for an average of less than ten seconds. If we apply this same logic to a book, most readers will read a book and then put it down, hardly to spare it a second glance. By these standards then, a truly remarkable one that stays with you, continuing to stimulate thought long after it is read. A great book is made by the fact that it leaves you in some way deeply dissatisfied. A great book should have the power to challenge something that you believe in, to make a statement that forces you to question the circumstances that until that point you have blithely accepted. A great book is power on pages. Through conflict, a great book changes you.
I read one of these incredible books recently, and it took me entirely be surprise, as I was actually assigned this book rather than having chosen it myself. (It was Kindred by Octavia Butler, for those that might be wondering.) For days afterwards, I found my thoughts wandering back, considering the problems that it posed and how they related to the way I live. In my life, I can think of four books that have struck me like this, though I have read hundreds. It isn’t something easy to do, and the stories often come from the most unexpected places. As far as I am concerned, an author can take the safe route and write a good book to please his audience, or an author can take a risk and knock their reader down at the knees, creating something that means a thousand times more than simply the words on the page.
Oak Grove Branch