Monday, November 15, 2010

Reading, Writing, and the Power of Language.

This past Friday, I had the distinct pleasure or receiving some old books of mine from a friend, who had been borrowing them for over a year (possibly over two). In this stack, were the first three Sandman Graphic Novels, Preludes and Nocturnes, The Dolls House, and Dream Country.
For those of you unfamiliar to Sandman, it is an incredible story written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a number of talented artists. The title Character, Sandman, is something like a God of Dreams, except he is not bound by the belief system that gods are, and he oversees the realm of dreams for everyone. I won't explain anything else, but I will say this. Within the many pages of the ten books that comprise this saga, is what I believe to be some of the best storytelling I've ever read.

The story, as well as it's method of being told is chilling to the bone, heart-warming, and above all, holds Truth. I don't mean to say that he depicts events that actually happened, or that he has seen the future and tells what it holds. I mean, that in these volumes he has shown a distinct and utterly impressive comprehension of the world that we inhabit, and has been able to weave a tale to share that wealth. I've read these books many times, often in times of inner turmoil, and every time, I not only learn something new about myself and the world, but I am instilled with hope, inspiration, and wonder. These are powerful things.

To elaborate some on the above statements, I'd like to discuss the role of fiction, and subsequently, that of storytelling. There are many things that storytelling does, but they all can eventually be categorized under two labels: entertainment, and teaching. Entertainment insomuch as it can bring a smile to a person's lips (or a shiver to their spine), and teaching in that we can learn from other's mistakes and triumphs. Why then, does fiction exist? Both entertainment and learning can be utilized in nonfiction. We can take enjoyment from hearing about our predecessors coming of age stories, and reading about the Crusades can teach us many things, if one is willing to learn. So what does fiction do, that non fiction doesn't? Fiction can be shaped and formed, which gives us power as to what each story means. We can choose how someone is entertained, and what (to a degree) they might learn. We can make them empathize more with a certain character, to truly understand them, or we can turn someone into an evil enigma, mysterious, and filled with pain. These small tools are only available to someone who writes fiction. Whether it is embellishing a real character, or creating their own, the power of fiction is strong.

Traditionally, stories have been used as a means of passing knowledge and wisdom on to younger generations. Inside, they are filled with moral codes, political structures, and facts. We are taught how to act, how to think, and through these methods, a User's Guide to Living. Oftentimes, they are used to explain the unexplainable. Why the sky is so blue, or where sunrises come from... these unexplainable phenomena were explained. But now, so much of the waking world has been explained, and awe is something difficult to come by. Good fiction, examines the world, and showcases that awe. It examines and explains how humans are formed, our decision making processes, how we die, how we dream...

And this is what makes Sandman so incredible.


Lizou said...

You capitalize Truth. Pluck my art/literary/most-creative-inspired heart strings. <3

Karl Anderson said...

I guess that's my thing.