The first thing that’s struck me about my literature seminar this fall is how amazingly substantial the books are. That is, they offer something more than an entertaining story, or even a thoughtful one, and instead get at the kind of human truths that transcend their time or place. Oedipus is still current in the way that it raises questions of whether the gods are just, whether and where fairness comes into play regarding crimes and punishment, and how to understand the concept of a good man and a good life.
Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee, is about men and women and sex, and the uses of sex. It’s about animals and obligation and the problems of how to live a life that has to involve giving and receiving a certain amount of cruelty. We’re going to spend hours tonight talking about meaning, not in a “what is the author trying to say” way, but in the “how does this book change our understanding of how we live our lives” way.
Perhaps (just perhaps) it’s unfair for me to compare myself to a Nobel Prize-winning writer, but I’ve always had a tendency to set my personal bar high. I started by getting up early to write, took the next jump to sign up for 750words.com and its monthly writing challenge (I’ve only made it to 750 twice, but I’ve written every day this month and am pushing for the full 750), and I’m gearing up for NaNo. With word count building, my next logical step is to reconsider what it is that I’m writing. Again, I am aware Nobel Prize is a smidge high for a yardstick, but on the other hand, if you fail to reach it, you’re still probably going to be turning out something pretty good.
I’ve got some writing exercises I’ll be trying out in the next few days to find a way to add more of that delicious, meaty, philosophical substance to my writing. I’ll post them here. Stay tuned!