Sunday, September 9, 2018
Penetrating the Heart of Darkness
This was kind of difficult for me to answer, because most of the books that spring to mind when I cast back and try to recall which I didn't want to read are the ones I ended up hating. If I ended up loving them, I kind of forget that initial pain. Like childbirth.
But I finally settled on HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad, which I had to read for AP English senior year of high school. The edition above is the one I read - and still have.
I know a lot of you mentioned this book when I talked about THE DEERSLAYER as my most loathed book I had to read. And I get it why. I really do. It's a super slow story, which is interesting because at 152 pages, it's really a novella and not all that long.
I'll confess I did not love the story when I read it. I had the same reaction many of you do, that it was boring and impenetrable. I'm pretty sure I read/finished reading it on an airplane, which helped because this was back in the bad old days when we didn't have eReaders with thousands of alternative reads at our finger tips. The book(s) you brought on the plane were the ones you got to read. It was either that or stare out the window at the landscape (I did a lot of that) or talk to your seat companions (no no no).
I remember all of this, even though it was a long time ago, because I was on a series of flights with my mom, visiting various colleges that I'd applied to. (I only applied to three, so it was pretty easy.) One of them was Northwestern, which my first love and HS boyfriend, Kev - who was a year ahead of me - was attending. All of this stands out vividly in my mind, not only because of the love/lust tizzy that consumed me at the prospect of seeing Kev after being separated when he went off to college, but - and this says a lot about my loves and lusts - because of the Northwestern Library.
See, this trip occurred during fall semester of my senior year and I was taking a pretty heavy courseload, including three AP (Advanced Placement) classes. To keep up, I had to do homework on the trip, which meant finishing reading (or reading entirely) HEART OF DARKNESS and writing a paper on it to turn in when I got back. So, I went to the Northwestern Library while Kev was at class to do my research for the paper.
Oh. My. God.
I'll never forget the thrill of finding the shelves and shelves of literary criticism on this story. This was pre-internet, and while my high school library was good, it simply couldn't compare to the breadth and depth of knowledge at the library of a major university. Saying it was intellectually orgasmic would not be going too far.
Researching that paper illuminated the story for me in thousands of ways. I understood the allegories and how all that boredom and impenetrability MEANT SOMETHING. I think I'll always love HEART OF DARKNESS for the way it opened new worlds of understanding storytelling for me.
I also got an A+ on that paper.
Labels: hated book, Heart of Darkness, Jeffe Kennedy, Joseph Conrad, loved book, Northwestern University, Reading
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of romantic fantasy. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.