Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this.Dave Eggers
One of my favorite things in the world is the feeling you get when you’re totally unguarded, immersed in a book, and you read a line or a passage that arrests you completely. In that moment, there are only two entities in the entire world: you and the author. Something clicks. It’s a spiritual connection made between two minds that validate each other through that silent acknowledgment, that yes, I feel that too.
The last time that happened to me was while I was reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet. Those books destroyed me completely. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, Ferrante follows two women, Elena and Lila, living in an impoverished neighborhood in Naples, Italy. Their friendship is really the story at the heart of the novels, and Ferrante follows them from around the time they’re eight years old in primary school to the time they’re in their fifties. The transformation of their friendship mirrors the transformation of Naples and Italy itself, with all the concomitant volatility, upheaval, violence, grace, and love.
There were times when I was reading I would actually forget Elena and Lila were fictional characters, and I would cry, and I would tense up from the sheer electricity of Ferrante’s prose. Their sorrows were my sorrows, their pain my pain, their love my love. If all prose writers were like Elena Ferrante, I don’t think my heart could handle it. For me, that’s the purpose of literature—to both transcend your personal understanding of the world at the same time your own experience is validated.
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