Book Diary: I Was Amelia Earhart (Jane Mendelsohn)

Since the last Book Diary entry I have continued on my female-author trip with Jane Mendelsohn’s, I Was Amelia Earhart and Faye Weldon’s, The Hearts and Lives of Men (I will have to break this habit very soon though as I begin my traditional Christmas reading of A Christmas Carol and The Santaland Diaries).

The lady-binge has only been half-intentional, but it did get me to thinking why – lately – I have been attracted to reading female authors in particular.  It turns out I had already answered my own question. Our (my sister and I’s) philosophy tutor has asked to interview us for a Spanish magazine, the piece is called ‘Héroes en Silencio’ and is basically a series of interviews with people that like to lock themselves away in their bedrooms and read, or study, or both.  In answer to the questions, “What enthuses you most about literature?  How does literature help you in your day to day life?”  I said:

Para mi, la respuesta tiene dos partes.  Para empezar, yo creo que el arte en general es imprescindible. Punto. Necesitamos el arte para explicar la cuestión de vivir con sentido en una forma que las ciencias no pueden.  Estoy de acuerdo con Matthew Arnold y su idea del “artista como héroe” Dice: “It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that poetry is at bottom a criticism of life; that the greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life — to the question, How to live.” La segunda parte de la respuesta es que, a mí, la literatura es la forma del arte más alto, más bello y con más sentido. La estructura de una novela, un cuento o un poema, el estilo de la escritura y la elección particular de las palabras para formar todo junto algo que puede quitar el aliento o se hace que tengas una Epifanía me apasiona muchísimo y es en esta manera que me ayuda la literatura: trae la belleza y el sentido en mi vida.

Oscar will tidy up the Spanish, but basically I said that I believe art in general to be essential to life, to give us something where religion once did, to explain and to provide something over and above the everyday. I then go onto say that for me the best form of art for this is literature and that literature brings beauty and meaning into my life.

So perhaps I am attracted to female authors at the moment as I need instruction and consolation from other women.  In I Was Amelia Earhart, the theme of how faintly we know ourselves (a theme I seem to be attracted to in novels) resurfaced and led me to my new favourite quote, reminding me to welcome all experiences as good learning opportunities:

She walks the beaches in search of truths that had never troubled her in their absence: she thinks about death and miracles and solitude. These were the days when she became reacquainted with herself, without hoping for anything except the satisfaction of knowing that she had explored an unknown sensation or feeling. This was her only object, and in its pursuit she discovered that she knew only a small portion of the vast landscape that was her soul. It was as if what she had considered to be her self all these years was only a magnified detail of an enormous painting whose entire composition and narrative she had never before known existed, let alone seen. And in this way she began to view the universe differently.

Right now, a quote like that seems hard to beat, but maybe in the new year I will give some blokes a go. For now, Merry Christmas – until 2015…

Me opening the first door on the advent calendar
Opening the first door on the advent calendar

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