The Healing Powers of Literature

As someone who has turned to literature many times when dealing with personal battles – whether it be for an escape, a chance to gain a new perspective, or to simply feel connected – I am elated to see that research is being done in this field.

Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen and Melvyn Bragg share stories of how literature can help with mental health problems

The Course

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REVIEW: The Old Man and the Sea

Sigh. Hemingway. You pithy and beautiful man. This is my kind of writer; to the point, yet poetic. The Old Man and the Sea is different from most of Hemingway’s other works. No self-destructive behavior, damaged lovers, or sudden tragedy. In fact, the story is uplifting and sweet. You can’t help but fall in love with Santiago and his quest for his big fish.

I don’t have much to say on this novella (maybe Ernest has rubbed off on me) except that I adored it. Hemingway, whether you are making me smile, or making me cry inconsolably, I hang on your every word.

Rating: 5 Marlins

REVIEW: American Psycho

Disclaimer: American Psycho is one of my all time favorite movies, with one of my all time favorite on screen performances. I read this book hearing Christian Bale’s voice in my head. Therefore, I went into this journey with a bias in its favor.

Let me get the “negatives” out of the way first. Ellis is a self-indulgent writer (granted, he was only 27 when writing this which is prime time for the male ego). This story could have been told in far less than 400 pages. It is filled with repetitive chunks (chapters…potato, potahto) that could easily be skipped by the 5th time the subject is addressed, and you won’t miss out on anything plot wise. I know what you’re thinking – “Why are you about to say you loved this book? It includes so many of your pet peeves with writers.” And my answer to you is this – it all works when the narrator of the story is Patrick Bateman.

Bateman is psychotic and obsessive. He dwells on every materialistic detail of the world around him; and now you do too, because you are 110% in his head for all 399 pages. So, the self-indulgence, and OCD patterns, make perfect sense. At the core of this book is a ridiculously well-constructed character, a dark and well-timed sense of humor, and a strong statement on the obsession with consumer materialism as a means of achieving happiness in American society. Bret Easton Ellis had a lot to say during a dark time in his life, and his voice certainly resonated throughout American Psycho

I would not recommend this book to every reader I know – spoiler alert: homeboy gets graphic. And just when you think sex and murder couldn’t possibly be described in further, and more gruesome detail, he proves you wrong…repeatedly. But, to those who have the taste that this book requires, or are looking to explore something outside the norm for them, it is high on the list.

Rating: 4 Bloody Stars

REVIEW: The Screwtape Letters

I would have bet good money that I’d never enjoy a Christian apologetic novel; but, C.S. Lewis’ masterful use of the English language, and clever presentation of his philosophies, makes for an intriguing and thought-provoking book. This novel could have easily become redundant and tedious; as many philosophical novels do (i.e. The Picture of Dorian Gray); but, Lewis avoids this trap with his poetic elegance, sharp wit, and unique format.

Narrating from the Devil’s point of view provides a humorous element to an otherwise serious topic. By employing a letter format to relate the story of one individual’s journey, Lewis breaks up what could have become a monotonous and long-winded sermon. While I was not converted, I was moved to reexamine the nature of human will, and revise my perspective on faith – all with a smile on my face.

Lewis is quickly climbing the ladder of my favorite authors with each novel of his that I read; I look forward to delving into more of his works.

Rating: 4 Pitchforks