A Love Letter to Literature

by Elison Alcovendaz

Dear Literature,

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You probably don’t know me, but I love you. It wasn’t love at first sight; actually, I avoided you for most of my young life. And it wasn’t like you didn’t try. I know that you tried and I want you to know that I know that. In my preschool years, you had parents and teachers and teachers aides read to me that wonderful poetry by Dr. Seuss and Silverstein and the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, but I was too busy picking my nose and looking at what came out to understand. In the elementary grades, you tried to scare me into noticing you; you put Goosebumps in my way, but I was too busy chasing the girls around the playground for no apparent reason that I just didn’t have time for you. In middle school, you sent me those trusty buddies, Frodo and the Narnians, but I was too busy figuring out that hormone thing that I stopped listening to you after the first chapter. You deserved more attention from me then. I’m deeply sorry for that. 

In high school, you called to me in different voices – Orwellian and Steinbeckian and Whartonian and Hemingwayist – but I think you were trying to teach me something about the Iceberg Principle, because you were so subtle that I didn’t even notice you. Then you tried to Shakespeare me, with your sonnets and iambic pentameter and star-crossed lovers, but I was too busy hanging out with your evil cousin, Cliff, who always told me your stories in easy-to-understand Notes so I never actually had to spend time with you. You tried to enchant me with The Count of Monte Cristo and Cyrano de Bergerac; you tried to teach me with Homer and Plato; you tried to challenge me by making me enter the Heart of Darkness and the Inferno; and still, I stuck with Cliff because he was, well, an easy guy to hang out with and wasn’t that demanding of my time.

In college, you got angry and disappared and I should’ve noticed (you have no idea how much I wish I would’ve noticed). Instead, I was spending time with your long lost cousins, learning how to go from Good to Great and trying to figure out Who Moved My Cheese. I spent time with case studies of businesses; I even went over to the dark side and took Math out on a couple of dates. I should’ve known she would be too calculating for my tastes. There was a semester I could’ve come back to you, too, but when I visited your sister, Theater, I couldn’t think about anything except how she talked too much. So I went back to your Rich Dad, Poor Dad and they taught me The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which pushed me so far away from you that I never gave you a second thought.

When I went to work, I met your mortal enemies: sales manuals and insurance contracts and privacy disclosures and profit margin printouts. In the past I’d at least visited your house every now and then, but for those years I didn’t step foot in the library. As time wore on, I got more and more acquainted with the modernized usage of your blood (your words) lol j/k :) WTF? Even if I’d remembered you, even if I’d had the time, I would’ve cast you away. I became conditioned to 140 characters and scrolling status updates. I lost my mind (literally metaphorically). My brain changed. I wouldn’t have had the capacity or the patience to see you again. In a way, I’m glad you stayed away. It wouldn’t have worked.

And then you sent the kid with the lightning scar my way. It was almost an accident, a gift for my roommate. It wasn’t your best work, of course, but it was one of your better ones, and in one night, I remembered you. I went back to college to find you. I learned so much. I slayed a monster with Beowulf and got Paradise Lost; I travelled with Candide and hunted Moby-Dick. Then when I didn't understand right away, you got mad. You turned me into an insect in The Metamorphosis, took me to The Waste Land, and taught me what it meant to be an Invisible Man. But just when I thought I was so close to understanding you, you confused me via Deconstruction; you Marx’d me as capitalist; you made me fear the Panopticon and Said something about my own hybridity. And just when you were about to lose me, you pulled The Great Gatsby on me and that was it. I would've traversed a million Labyrinths to find you. I would've Love(d) (you) in the Time of Cholera. This wasn't a House of Leaves or a Catch-22 or an Infinite Jest. I fell in love with you with something more than a Pale Fire. This was real. I was yours.

And now that I've come to know you, I want you to know that I understand your pain about people not understanding. They say you are an escape and to some degree, that’s true. We live lives that get boring, sad, tedius, angry and sometimes, coming to you provides an escape from all that. But more than that, you’re an example. You teach us about life, the world, people, ourselves, so that when we go back to that sometimes boring, sad, tedious, angry world, we know how to handle it better. You build us up. You show us War and Peace in A Handful of Dust - you lend us insight to the unexplainable.  When we are asleep, you shake us with The Awakening. When chaos rules, when our minds are filled with The Sound and the Fury, you guide us to The Road. You show us the truths that sometimes need 100,000 words to be felt, absorbed through the skin, and filtered through our blood. You break down our walls. When Things Fall Apart, you bring us together and show us The Power of One. And the best part about it is, you are always there, even when we forget you.

So my promise is this: when life gets busy as it always does, I will always come back to you. I will treat you with care and respect. I will continue to get to know you as deeply as I can and I hope, one day, you will get to know me too.