Post-coitally this evening I was asked why I thought novels like The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby continue to enthrall readers. I think about books a lot, about why I read, why I value language and written expression so highly, and I have thought about this question. It is after 3 a.m. (isn't it always, when I find myself here?) and I am still thinking about this question.
I think that all great works of literature endure because they are about the human struggle to make connections (with ourselves, with each other, with the world) while understanding that we are all fundamentally alone. It's why The Old Man and the Sea is so haunting, why The Road, for all its bleakness, ends with a sliver of hope, why Holden's quest to find out what happens to the ducks is so critical, why Gatsby's impossible dream continues to attract us.
There is glory in human struggle. It is, ultimately, all we have. John the Savage flogged himself because he knew it. Guy Montag smuggled books into his vents instead of burning them up because he knew it. The Old Man fought the sea because he knew it. And Nick Carraway recognized the significance of the green light at the end of Daisy's dock because he knew it.
And if these novels continue to find themselves on high school curricula, it is because adolescence is that time when we become aware of the disconnect and, subsequently, the struggle to make those connections with fellow human beings. We are all weirdos.
I am often moved by these moments of connection in my life. The oddest, most trivial-seeming things bring me to tears. Most recently, I was sitting around a table outside of Dairy Queen with a Skor Blizzard and some friends and it was a gorgeous sunny day in spring and our feet swung lazily beneath too-tall benches and there we all were, eating ice cream together in the sun like children, and my eyes welled up behind my sunglasses.
Another moment occured in Costa Rica, the Arenal volcano rising behind us as we paddled in the bath-warm water of a hot spring, drinking daiquiris and laughing together as the sun set on a warm night in a strange country.
There are more of these moments, of course, a lifetime's worth, but it is late and I am tired and I just wanted to let you know that the struggle is what makes us lovely, even when it hurts. And that everyone feels alone and lost sometimes and that that is okay because we ARE alone and lost (ah well), but we are also part of something, a human interconnectedness, that makes those moments, however trivial-seeming, what life is all about (riot on).