Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Secret Lives of Books: How Authors Midwife New Classics

The Secret Lives of Books: How Authors Give Birth to Classics (Download this audio – Click Here.)

You may not believe this, but the Classics you have read may be just as alive as you…

(Considering authors as midwives to the life contained in a book.)

Of course, we can call books “metaphors” for human existence, ways to get lessons from our subconscious.

But what if they are actually real, perhaps even more real than this world we are living in?

Our job as authors perhaps is more vital than we think. For we are perhaps but only midwives to their birth into this world from another.

Books may be alive.

In a recent series of articles in the Guardian, they discuss a joint research project with Durham University researchers conducted in 2014. (http://calm.li/2msUPcr) More than half of the 1500 people interviewed at an Edinburgh international book festival heard the voices of the characters they were reading, all or most of the time. And 48% actually got the visual or other sensory experiences.

The interpretation by the scientists was that the readers were just “re-creating the words and characters” being described.

The problem, if you could call it that, was that these characters would remain active in the readers minds after they put the book down. Readers found themselves being influenced by the characters as they went about their daily activities.

Charles Fernyhough described this as “experiential crossing.”

The surveyed people were from a wide variety of countries. 50% were from UK and another 14% from the US, with 8 other countries represented. 83% had a college degree, with 41% having postgraduate degrees.

This “crossing” was very vivid to these participants. One stated:

“I become so engrossed in a novel that the characters become real to me. I know that they are not real, but they feel real.It is as vivid as watching the characters in a film on TV where the screen is my mind s eye. In fact, if I can t hear the characters voices, I find it impossible to carry on reading the novel because it is the vivid experience of characters voices (or sometimes the author s voice ) that I want when I read a novel.”

I’m going to offer another, different explanation for books: they are alive and they are literally crossing over into our existence when we read, listen, or watch them in a movie version.

And there are dozens of dozens of quotes telling about being “transported” in time and space when you read a book. I’m sure you’ve experienced this at times:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one. George R.R. Martin’

You know that feeling, she said, when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing tight around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage and you cannot let go or turn the course aside.
Cassandra Clare

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
Louis L’Amour

I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I’m alone, inside the world of the story. My favourite feeling in the world.
Haruki Murakami

Each time we come to a book we give it a different reading because we bring a different person to it. It is not you who reads the book, the book reads you
Jack Lasenby

And all that could be said to be “imaginary” as if imagination wasn’t real and didn’t create the world around us. But I have news for you: everything we use that is manufactured by humankind was first an idea from the imagination of someone. And several other people had to employ their imagination to create the machines that could mass-produce it and transport it, and merchandize it. All so we could touch and wear and consume it.

Imagination created this reality around us, this “real” world we trust to keep going every day.

And so it’s just as “real” to consider that there might be other worlds which are accessible through books, in any of their forms.

In those worlds, the stories would be alive, just as we are in this one.

In the “Writer’s Journey” Chris Vogler seems to think this in one of his Appendix articles:

“But of all my beliefs about stories, one that has been particularly useful in the business of developing commercial stories for the movies is the idea that stories are somehow alive, conscious, and responsive to human emotions and wishes.

I have always suspected that stories are alive. They seem to be conscious and purposeful. Like living beings, stories have an agenda, something on their minds. They want something from you. They want to wake you up, to make you more conscious and more alive. They want to teach you a lesson disguised as entertainment. Under the guise of amusement, stories want to edify you, build up your character just a little by showing a moral situation, a struggle, and an outcome. They seek to change you in some small way, to make you just a bit more human by comparing your behavior to that of the characters.”

And in a later article in his book, Vogler points out that stories actually have a physical effect on the body:

“As a professional evaluator of stories I became keenly attuned to the emotional and physical effects a manuscript could have on me. I came to depend on the wisdom of the body to determine the quality of the story. If it was bad and boring, my body would grow leaden and the pages would weigh a thousand pounds apiece. I knew it was bad if, as my eyes scanned down the page, my head kept drooping and I nodded off to sleep. The good ones, I noticed, the ones that ultimately made good movies, had the opposite effect on my body. They woke me up. The organs of my body came to life one by one. The body became alert, light, and happy…”

Is the “imagination” creating this in the body, or is our mind connecting to other worlds in these instances?

We have always been told that books are “things” and the stories in them “not real.” And yet you and I can “feel transported” to a completely different world when we sit in a quiet corner to read. The same happens, even more intimately, when listening to audiobooks. Driving down the road, you have to watch your foot on the accelerator while listening to a thriller or adventure book. As well, you’re vision can become blurred at certain tragic scenes. One trick of astute husbands has long been to gift rowdy romances to their spouse to enhance their bedtime escapades. Certainly this has been the mutual ploy of couples watching amorous scenes in a dark movie theatre.

But again, the question is whether we are “imagining” these things, or are we being influenced by “crossover” events into this world.

We don’t have to leave this world to be influenced by others in this one. A great deal of studies were collected and written up by Claude M. Bristol in his “Magic of Believing” (chapter 7).

Bristol discussed the studies of Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University, where telepathy was proved to exist, among various other abilities which were beyond our few physical senses, or “extra-sensory.” These apparently happen independent of time or space, where people have had a completely accurate vision of something that occurred at the same time thousands of miles away with no physical clue or connection. Others have received such an accurate vision hours or days later, some even before it happened.

Bristol brings up the fact of this even influencing inventions:

“In a radio program in April, 1945, Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews told of one of the most unusual ‘coincidences’ on record. Just after the publication of one of his songs, an American songwriter discovered that the same piece of music, note for note, had been composed and published in Germany only a short time before. That the compositions were identical to the last note makes the story more unusual than the many cases reported of widely separated people who have had the same idea at the same time. While living on the West Coast, I submitted an article to an eastern publication, only to receive a note from the editor saying he’d just accepted an article embracing the same material from another writer living in the East. Elisha Gray claimed that he had the idea of the telephone at the same time as Alexander Graham Bell. Independent simultaneous discovery often happens among writers, inventors, chemists, engineers, and composers.”

You may be thinking that it’s then quite a stretch to think that there are entities and beings which exist outside this physical world. But is it much that different from knowing that we can communicate outside of space and time with others, to consider that others might be able to communicate with us in our time and space?

Certainly, the many stories of angels and other entities influencing humankind throughout our histories and religious texts have given us some details of these.

Now, consider the occurrence where statesmen and others have been “inspired” by a book written years before, by an author they had never physically met. In fact, there are thousands of books which contain “inspirational” quotes. These are referred to regularly. And there are thousands of books which contain nothing but quotes by authors.

Books themselves have influenced history. Consider this list of 50 books from Open Education Database librarian – http://calm.li/2msJA3K You’ll see religious texts such as the Qua’ran, the Bible, the TaoTeChing. Political books such by authors such as John Locke, Machiavelli, Karl Marx, Thomas Paine. Scientific books by Einstein, Freud, Darwin. Sociological books by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Anne Frank. The list continues on and on.

Consider that certain ideas in certain books live seemingly immortal lives. Each generation finding them newly and taking their ideas for themselves. Biographies of people containing the essence of their lives which live long after the person’s original body was dust. (For that matter, consider the effect that both the Egyptian and Tibetan “Book of the Dead” still have when read.)

The general idea here is that the author may really just be a channel for an essence which is very much already alive and only needing to be brought into this world via paper, recordings, and/or film.

The accuracy and talent of that author enable that book to take on it’s own life. And reach bestseller status or not, depending on many variables which may or may not be able to be influenced by that author.

Chasing this idea down may or may not give us an idea of where “inspiration” comes from.

But it certainly gives a more entertaining look at how books come into existence.


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