Why Adults Need Good Literature, too

Speaking of good reading, this commentary from Joshua J. Whitfield in the Dallas Morning News makes a powerful case for literature that not only shapes our imaginations when we are young, but helps us to be able to see things as they really are when we are adults.

Whitfield reminds us making sense of a world that so often seems unintelligible requires an imagination formed by a sense of how things ought to be. He commends the works of such authors as Flannery O'Connor, who wrote at times shockingly so as to alert her readers to the reality of the disorder around us:

"The reason why Flannery O'Connor and other Southern writers often wrote about "freaks," she said, was because "we are still able to recognize one." Writing about murderers, racists, traveling Bible-selling hypocrites, O'Connor was a master of her art, the strange genre she called grotesque. It was her way of telling the truth through lies and good through evil."

Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the author of the Gulag Archipelago, who knew firsthand more about freakish grotesquery than any human being should have to endure, observed that "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Perhaps most importantly, a vital and moral imagination shaped by good literature is not only able to identify the grotesque around us, but the disorder with ourselves, as well.