Have you ever read something and thought, “Wow, that’s pretty much the story of my life”?
If you have, how lucky you are, as it appears that for me and any others like myself, the quest for literature I can uniquely identify with continues. When I enter certain terms in Google or input particular keywords in Amazon, I essentially want to narrow down my search (even if I’m not entirely certain, of what). I imagine that for some, a self-help book with a promising title written by a polished-looking guru may inspire hope of addressing a preexisting issue. Or if you’re like Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars, an author’s celebrity is enough to define one’s search parameters (“Frankly, I’d read your grocery lists,” she said in an email to Peter van Houten, her favorite author). Personally, I also know someone who claims he only reads memoirs or biographies to live out un-lived/yet-to-be-lived/never-to-be-lived experiences through another person’s actual life events and feelings. “Fiction is too much a stretch of my imagination” were his exact words. He’s on to something there, but for my part, I’m too much of a dreamer to give up fiction altogether.
However many books eventually make up the jigsaw of one’s life’s search for that je ne sais quoi, the hunt, in itself, can yield helpful lesson points; at least it has for me. Even when I think I’m completely random in pulling out a volume on polar bears, what ultimately keeps me going and sustains my interest in said polar-bear-book-or-its-equivalent is almost always a certain something that resonates on a deeper level.
When I was in my early twenties, I was extremely drawn to themes of existentialism and I hung on to every word of Camus, Plath, and Sartre (though I drew the line at Beckett because I thought Endgame too suffocating). Being at the time very close-minded about exploring beyond the classics and existentialists is quite telling of my personality and outlook then (angst-ridden, clueless, lost at sea). Right now, being a full-time working mother-of-two, my once-beloved Camus holds little to no appeal. And if I were to contemplate re-reading my collection of Kundera or Murakami, it’s probably not going to be anytime soon. These are great novels, no doubt, but my point is, perhaps books are time- and context-specific.
More recently, when I was going through a confusing phase, I definitely was typing every relevant keyword I could think of in search engines and Amazon to find a suitable read. It didn’t always lead me somewhere, but from the experience of looking, I took away from it knowledge about the available information out there and was able to build on existing tools. If anything, the process of searching helped me realize what exactly it was that I needed to find, even if it didn’t end up being a book. But that’s a story for another day.
So have you found the story of your life?