Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Great Literature...

I sometimes think about the books I've loved. No, strike that--the books I love. The past tense is unfair. Even if I haven't read the book since my childhood, it's still in the present tense. I don't think you can love literature in the past tense. If you loved it, but do no longer, can you truly say you ever really did?

There was a time I thought I loved books which were written well. Truly, though, that is not enough. Florid prose without substance is just as trite as poorly written trite. The books I still cling to (whether I own them or have read them in years) have substance. One of my favorite books when I was younger was The Giver. I haven't read it in years, but it still sticks with me. In it, even color has been removed by the government. The protagonist, as he slowly learns what once was, learns how to see color again and learns to want freedom. It isn't the best dystopian novel, but it sticks with me because of the powerful metaphors--lost color, a collective memory protected by only those few who are still capable of learning the past, and the final scene all stay with a person, or did with me.

Ayn Rand's works, of course, also stay with a person. Universal truths are revealed in the struggles of Reardan, Roark, and Taggart. You see the same world today in computers and jetplanes as she wrote about in the time of steam trains and newspapers. When Microsoft was split up because it had an "unfair advantage" because of the ability to market two profitable programs (Windows and Office) together, it calls to mind the distribution of railroads in Atlas Shrugged. Or, I should say, it calls that image to the minds of those who aren't swept up by the "public interest." Every day, you can look around and see those who believe Toohey's preaching of selflessness and collective thought. There is no individual Toohey running around to pinpoint, of course...or, really, there are several. Every "spiritual leader" who wants to control his followers uses Toohey's tactic of making sure the followers strive for collectivity and aren't happy.

Louis L'Amour, too, sticks with me. His protagonists are sometimes outlaws, but they know what's right and they do it. There is no thought given to the idea of subjective morality. Right is right, wrong is wrong, and men don't let other men rule them.

Great works do not change minds. They reinforce the truths already present in the minds of the readers. Great works are only great to those who can recognize them. A strict communist would never allow himself to recognize the truths or value of Ayn Rand. Great works are individual--communism has no great works to its credit because it stifles the individual, forcing him to collaborate, to compromise, to settle for that which is far too common.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Noticed your comments on L'Amour. You should check out my blog.