It is my basic fear whenever I begin a book that I will not like it.
This fear is heightened when it's an important piece of literature, or one written by a well known writer. A number of things amount to this fear:
high expectations, my own desire to be moved by a piece of literature, and the fact that I've been let down before.
My second fear when reading a book is that the writer themself will give me reason to feel cynically about his or her writing.
There are authors whom I have loved, based solely on the fact that I was moved immensely by their writing, only to find that the authors themselves are not people it's likely I would think highly of were I to know them in real life.
In such cases as these, I have learned to separate the writing from the writer in my mind.
I read Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
this weekend in preparation to see the film Howl.
I set out to read Howl with the goal of having a very open mind. This is a piece by Ginsberg I had never read. Based on what I knew of the history of the poem and all the controversy that surrounded it, I was not sure how I would feel about it personally. I thought that maybe this time I'd have to separate the writer from the writing.
Much to my joy, I loved reading Howl, and all the 'other poems' that followed. Ginsberg was a heartfelt and imaginative writer, a man who literally painted pictures with words. He wrote of sunflowers in the way that van Gogh painted them. He saw things for what they truly were and beyond. I love how he spoke of love.
(Ginsberg with his life partner Peter)
After falling in love with the writing, I didn't get to do as much research on Ginsberg himself as I'd wanted to before seeing the movie. I think that subconsciously I was a little nervous to do so. I fell in love with the writing; would I feel the same way about the writer?
The film Howl is such a beautiful portrait of Ginsberg, and seeing it made me love him as a person even more than I could love him as a writer. He was a man who did not take himself too seriously, as so many writers do, and who wrote strictly because he loved it, and because it served him as a means of expressing his feelings. I saw no trace of artistic arrogance in him (something that bothers me so much in the creative world) as he was portrayed in the film. The ending, a brief summary of his life with real photos and video, was the deciding factor in all this for me.
And I love him. I'm so glad I read the book before the film, I'm so glad I saw the film, and, most of all, I'm so grateful to Ginsberg for giving me a writer and man whom I can appreciate in his entirety (simply because as both writer and man, he was kind, genuine, and loving).
So, I highly recommend both book and film. :)
I hope you all had a beautiful Monday!