Thursday, August 25, 2005

An Attempt to Better Explain my Feelings About the Ending of I am the Messenger

And also talk about How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

Now How to Read a Book has some good stuff in it, but said stuff is somewhat hard to find. You have to, in fact, know how to read a book to get much out of it because the authors are big believers that if something is worth saying it's worth saying again and again and again. What's more, why say something simply if you can twist it up a bit?

However, the authors say some things that I think relates to the book I was discussing the last time I was here. First off, while nonfiction books "try to convey knowledge...Imaginative ones try to communicate an experience itself..." Second, "...we can learn from imaginative literature...but not in the same way as we are taught by scientific and philosophical books. We learn from the course of our daily lives. So, too, we can learn from the vicarious, or artistically created, experiences that fiction produces in our imagination...In order to learn from such books, we have to do our own thinking about experience..."

Now, how this relates to I am the Messenger: That book ends by hitting us over the head with a message, something for us to learn. We should have picked that up through the experience the author created for us in writing the book itself. We weren't allowed to do our own thinking. Maybe the author didn't trust us to do it, or maybe he wasn't confident of his own ability to create an experience we could learn from.

Adler and Van Doren also say that writers create a world and that readers should "become at home in this imaginary world; know it as if you were an observer on the scene; become a member of its population, willing to befriend its characters, and able to participate in its happenings by sympathetic insight, as you would do in the actions and sufferings of a friend."

I think that in I am the Messenger Markus Zusak did create a world, and I did become at home in it. I did befriend its characters. But then Zusak destroyed that world with his ending. That's a disturbing payback for readers who have invested so much in reading a book.

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