What is it about books? Why do we feel such an urge to write? Fiction or non-fiction, it does not matter. Why do not greater proportions of people read books? In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen wrote: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” But in the context of reading, I believe that the universal truth is that any person in possession of a good idea must be in want of writing a book. One possible response could be that at some level, for any given individual at any given time, the act of writing and reading opens a, "door onto an enclosed and enchanted garden." It opens up an understanding or transports the individual out of their current existence and surrounds them with characters, plots, events which either carries them to another world, or else imparts knowledge and skills that are useful to them or makes sense of what was once an unknown.
Of course, not all experiences will be as enchanting as Charles Ryder's introduction to English aristocratic society in Brideshead Revisited. They will, however, fall somewhere on that continuum we call human emotional experience. And therein lies the attraction of writing and reading books.
The language within William Shakespeare’s plays may be strange to our modern readers, but the issues and ideas that he explored are as relevant today as they were in his time. The Tempest and A Midsummers Night speak to the urge to wonder at the mystical and strange. The Taming of the Shrew looks at the relationships between men and women - or the battle of the sexes as we would refer to it today. Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice opens a door to examine how people of differing religious beliefs can regulate their actions one to another. Of what is justice?
"If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example?" (The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare)
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, on learning of the death of Lady Macbeth, Macbeth comes face to face with the consequence of his actions:
"She should have died hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Shakespeare’s insight into regret, grief, and the way our actions haunt us reside with many who read it; establishing the powerful ability of words.
For all serious writers, being read by your generation is a wonderful achievement. However, to be read by the generations of the future and to be able to speak to them: that is the real mark of success.
While I have long since resigned myself to the knowledge that I lack the skill to be a writer, I can, through For Pity Sake Publishing, have a role in unearthing and promoting writers who open doors onto enchanted gardens for readers of today and perhaps, one or two who speak also to the generations to come.