Food for thought: A wonderful professor I know made a bold statement that grabbed my attention: When you pull a pot-boiler novel off the shelf and spend the weekend reading it, you’re entertained, but not enlivened: you’re exactly the same after you finish the book as you were before you read it. It’s amused you, but hasn’t affected you.
My friend and mentor Rob Gilbert says this: He doesn’t want to be entertained, he wants to be energized. He went on to talk about some performers who transmit enormous energy to their audiences: Bruce Springsteen or Stallone in the “Rocky” movies, for example.
Mmmm…All this rattled around in my head and started me thinking about energy transfer from a writing perspective. Stage performers often talk about the exchange of energy they engage in with their audiences during live shows. Is there a similar energy dynamic going on between authors and their readers?
If a book influences you emotionally: if it impels you to think deeply, inspires and uplifts you, or has the power to disturb you — is there a transfer of energy going on? On my end, I’d have to say yes. I believe that something mysteriously potent happens every time you pick up a truly memorable and moving book.
When reading an amazing novel — A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man springs to mind — I find that my mood is totally affected by the book’s tone and images. It’s as if I absorb the book’s emotional “climate.” Sometimes I’ll become restless or agitated, sometimes quiet and reflective, sometimes nostalgic or melancholy. If the book really hits me hard, the mood it engenders can take a long time to dissipate.
How about you? Do you think something elemental happens when you read something really powerful? How would you describe what you experience? How does a masterful writer make this happen? Write on!