“I’m a little shy about telling anybody to go read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, since it’s quite an undertaking; but it is a wonderful book. And from the technical aspect, it’s almost miraculous in the way it shifts imperceptibly from the author’s voice to the point of view of a character, speaking with the perfect simplicity in the inner voice of a man, a woman, even a hunting dog, and then back to the thoughts of the author…till by the end you feel you have lived many lives, which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give.” Ursula K. Le Guin, from Steering the Craft
Feeling that “you have lived many lives”—isn’t Ursula so right about the feeling that a wonderful novel gives you? Think of novels that really touched you and the gifts they give us all as readers:
They transport us to a world that’s somehow beyond time and space, and immerse us in it almost effortlessly.
They somehow parachute us into other people’s lives—often they start out as strangers, but by the end of the book, they’re friends or even valued teachers.
They bring us to a place where we understand something about our own lives more deeply.
They open our eyes and hearts and help us see the world in a different way—its beauty, its joy, its sorrow, its transcendence.
Just recently, I bought a book for a friend I thought he’d enjoy and send it to him. He loved it! After reading it, he went on to read more of that same author’s work and told me how much he was enjoying it. What a gift he gave me when he said that!
Wonderful to remember that books can make us feel that we’ve lived many lives, isn’t it? We writers are miracle workers. Let’s keep this in mind as we all write on!
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