The Power-Point Embraced
Yesterday I shared how I encouraged my daughter to take her anger and channel it into a reasoned response. One reader asked to see that response. I asked Sara if it was okay, and she kindly said yes...
I read all the stories and excerpts.
And I come to this question: why does the Literature book have mean, depressing, senseless stories? It’s just meanness and meanness and nothing has happened. Nothing has changed. I once read somewhere that writers have a responsibility for their stories—you have to think about the readers, and if your story will harm more than it will help. I wasn’t sure what I thought of that before, but now I agree. Some stories you shouldn’t have to read, unless you choose to. That’s why there are so many in the world—so everyone has a type of story they find fun, or interesting, or true, or wise, or perfect. Forcing someone to read story after story that is depressing does not have any use that I can see.
The ancient Greeks thought that writing comedy was a greater accomplishment than writing tragedy. William Faulkner, in his Nobel Prize speech, seems to agree. He doesn’t talk about comedy per se, but he notes that we need stories that “are not merely… the record of man…[but] one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” If a story lacks the universal truths of the resilient human spirit, he says it is “ephemeral and doomed.”
Some of the stories in the Literature book seem to lack these universal truths, as if they were a commentary on hopelessness instead of an experience of humanity—not merely the good or the evil, but the will to hope, even when there is no escape, to try, even when they can change nothing—like Anne Frank. I believe that stories like some in the Literature book will not be remembered in a thousand /200/300/500 years—unless it is for something other than the stories themselves, like their virtue as cultural artifacts. The oldest piece of literature in the world, Gilgamesh, is still being retranslated and retold and read. The Lord of The Rings is the same, Sherlock Holmes is the same—they have the life and energy now that they had when they were first written. Why? Because they tell of a story that is as true now as it was then, a story that transcends the boundaries of language and time.
On Hopeless Literature Essay, by Sara, age 14. Used with permission.