Robert Louis Stevenson and books of influence

dr. Jekyll and Mr HydeRegardless if you are an avid reader with several books piled upon the nightstand, a casual reader of magazines that you scan while patiently (or impatiently) sit in the waiting room of the dentist, or the week-end “I have such little time” reader; there is likely to be a favorite title that left an impression upon you somewhere tucked away from the past. For if the author has caught your attention and hooked you through to the very final page… your literary experience may have endured a positive influence upon you.

Positioning a book on your favorite list may have occurred because of the writer’s style; maybe it was because of a particular character that reminded you of yourself or even someone you wished to be like, and then there is the plot…the story –line that kept you on the very edge of your seat or ushered you away on an unforgettable journey. Regardless of the reason, books placed on a pedestal are meant to be shared and there is nothing more satisfying then ruminating over a good story with someone else that has enjoyed the same book.

Most of us have many “favorite” titles… for similar to ice cream… there are numerous flavors that are quite satisfying. It reminds me of an analogy … ‘ice cream is to mystery as chocolate is to genre’ …the relationship phrase here is “type”. In view of the fact that we often have ‘favorites’ that cross over into different genres or “types” of books; one has to wonder then what were the favorite titles of some of our great writers. For their taste would most likely not be “plain vanilla” but rather a scoop that was laced with other delicacies …perhaps “rocky road” or “vanilla fudge swirl”. But then, maybe not….

Robert Louis Stevenson_lib. congressOn that delicious note I bring us back to our esteemed thinker: Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author of celebrated novels and poetry that graced so many of our shelves. Mr. Stevenson was also a distinguished essayist, whereby I have extracted a small portion from his Essays in The Art of Writing and placed it on today’s blog. Steal a moment’s pause out of your hectic day for some words by from our famed writer…

“….The most influential books, and the truest in their influence, are works of fiction. They do not pin the reader to a dogma, which he must afterwards discover to be inexact; they do not teach him a lesson, which he must afterwards unlearn. They repeat, they rearrange, they clarify the lessons of life; they disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the acquaintance of others; and they show us the web of experience, not as we can see it for ourselves, but with a singular change—that monstrous, consuming ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out. To be so, they must be reasonably true to the human comedy; and any work that is so serves the turn of instruction. But the course of our education is answered best by those poems and romances where we breathe a magnanimous atmosphere of thought and meet generous and pious characters. Shakespeare has served me best. Few living friends have had upon me an influence so strong for good as Hamlet or Rosalind… Perhaps my dearest and best friend outside of Shakespeare is D’Artagnan—the elderly D’Artagnan of the Vicomte de Bragelonne. I know not a more human soul, nor, in his way, a finer; I shall be very sorry for the man who is so much of a pedant in morals that he cannot learn from the Captain of Musketeers. Lastly, I must name the Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that breathes of every beautiful and valuable emotion…”

2 thoughts on “Robert Louis Stevenson and books of influence

  1. It was either John Nichols or Tony Hillerman that said some truths can only be told in fiction. Tony Hillerman reported the conversation in one of his books on New Mexico. It seems to be an obvious truth, and is largely in accord the above, I think.

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