Literature Isn’t Dead / The Things They Carried

Observing the fixation on words the past two decades has been fascinating. We saw the birth of the acronym and watch as it passes into regular vocabulary. We succumbed to twitter’s 140 character limit and now we realize when our Facebook rants become more of an essay than a post. The emphasis in our lives is on shortening everything. Even as I am writing this I’m thinking if this segment is too long for your attention span.

Life in the twenty first century is all about expediency and often times books do not make the cut. There is always a clock within reach and it’s tempting to micro manage everything. It is much easier to commit an hour of time to a TV show, or three hours to a movie than it is to pick up a book and not know when you’ll put it down. You can choose a specific time to stop, but when that time comes if you’re in the middle of a chapter it can be hard to put down. If you flip the scenario and choose a page or chapter to stop on there is no way to be positive how long it will take to get there. I think this unknown creates anxiety when we spend much energy on time management.

We cannot lose the beauty in literature, there is too much to be gained. Reading can expose you to a time in history or a way of life in a more intimate way then you would encounter otherwise. I believe that literature readers are more compassionate people. I think at any moment you could read something that can completely alter your outlook and change your life. Isn’t that kind of amazing?

In an effort to combat the need for instant gratification and militant time management I have challenged myself to read more this year. Beyond that I have challenged myself to read topics that I would not pick for myself so that I get to widen my worldview.

The Things They Carried is a collection of essays Tim O’Brien wrote contemplating his time in the Vietnam War. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. The Vietnam War was something that we did not spend a significant amount of time on in school and it is something in American History often criticized. This book has helped me understand that time of tension and the difficult decisions soldiers make. Below I have written a cento created by breaking up a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

 

The bad stuff never stops happening.

It lives in its own dimension, replaying itself over and over.

There was that coldness inside me.

I sometimes felt the fear spreading inside me like weeds.

A helium buzz in the brain.

I felt hollow and dangerous.

The illusion of aliveness.

 

What are you reading this summer? Do you have any recommendations for me? Has anything you read ever changed the way you look at the world?

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