In the spirit of yesterday’s post, every now and then I’m going to a random “Know More” post, based on something I’ve learned in the week. Sometimes it will be facts, sometimes it will be ideas, sometimes it will be deep, and sometimes it will be superficial.
Today’s Know More post comes from one of the novels I’m currently teaching: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Today in class we looked at themes, and although it’s not necessarily new, what I learned, it was certainly a wonderful reminder – and it’s something that’s utilised brilliantly in the book to drive the story, both in terms of plot and character development. It’s something that will definitely make my writing more ‘honest.’
Here are some quotes that we threw around today, from the novel:
I’m so afraid of losing something I love I refuse to love anything (p216).
I missed you even when I was with you... I miss what I already have and I surround myself with things that are missing (p174).
You can’t love anything more than something you miss (p208).
The idea is that this character is so focussed on his past losses (death of loved ones, in this case) that he can’t bring himself to live in the present, let alone contemplate the future. He can’t appreciate what he has, because he’s too absorbed in what he’s lost.
Then you get these wonderful quotes:
It’s better to lose than never to have had (p310).
You can’t protect yourself against sadness without also protecting against happiness (p180).
So true, isn’t it? And as writers, something we especially need to realise: as writers, it’s our job to deal with the totality of life, not just the bits we find happy and pleasant. We have to explore the parts that hurt, the parts that engender strong reactions – because that’s what writing’s about; exploring. And you can’t ‘explore’ something that you’re already familiar with, so it’s also about stepping out of our comfort zones sometimes. After all...
Life is scarier than death (p322).
But it’s worth living, it’s worth grappling with, and in the end –
It’s always necessary to say I love you (p314).