(entry dated January 20, 2006 - go there and read the rest of it)
Personally, I think what I want most out of the experience of reading a book is a sense of recognition. We human beings live our lives, walking around in these great big hulking, sloshing bags of emotions we call bodies, awash in thoughts and feelings: philosophies, ambitions, jealousies, painful crushes, cravings for chocolate and chicken McNuggets, itches, anxieties, incomplete song lyrics, aspirations, memories of October, 1982, ninth grade geometry, fits of anger, prayer. What the heck does it all mean? We're constantly trying to make sense of it.
Readers try to make sense of it by looking for a moment of clarity between the covers of a book. If a writer can only serve up one distinct spoonful of the emotional oatmeal we call life, then they�ve given us something that�s remarkably sustaining. They've dipped into the bowl and brought out something we recognize: hey - that's a RAISIN! I get it!
Basically, what I'm saying is that in order for you to capture that raisin in all its sweet, wrinkly glory, you have to really know what a raisin is. You have to look at it. More carefully than you ever thought you�d look at a raisin. It has to be YOUR raisin and no one else's raisin.
Okay, so it gets a little flowery, but hey - that's a RAISIN, and I do get it.
I could get extremely incoherent trying to explain just WHY I get it, though. But I understand - it's that beautiful little kernel of truth that hides in the lies that are, by definition, fiction. It's the thing that will make a reader weep when a character dies in a book, because you, as the writer, have given that character that truth and when it is lost, even in a fictional universe, the reader feels its loss in his or her own heart.
Please note, I am not talking about BOoks WIth A Message, or homilies disguised as novels. I dislike being preached at, with the best of them, and I particularly dislike it when the writer thinks I am clueless enough not to actually notice that I am being preached at and tries to get away with it by "fooling" me. I am not that easily fooled - not when I was a kid (particularly not then!) and not as an adult reader, and particularly not after I began to seriously look at books in terms of writing them and then figuring out their nature and their structure and their function. If the story is nacre around a piece of grit, that produces a pearl - and I'm happy with that. But if the piece of grit IS the story and the mother-of-pearl is a fake flaky layer around it to make me believe that it's a pearl - sorry, I don't buy it. I am a pearl connoisseur when it comes to stories. I can tell when it's fake.
Raisins. Pearls. Gawd what a morass of mixed metaphors.
But I'm guessing that you'll know what I mean, if you've EVER looked up from a book with tears in your eyes and thought, omigod, I KNOW this, it's in my bones, how the flaming heck did this writer I have never met know what's in my heart and soul.
And if you haven't... the most heartfelt wish I can wish for you is that you come across such a book, and soon. It is like hearing the voice of an angel from afar, and it will make this sometimes cruel world more bearable - because you will know, in that instant, that you are not and have never been alone.