Part of the established pattern of my week is to meet once with two friends of mine. In its strictest parameters, the rendez-vous is a reading/creative writing group; in reality, it’s three guys getting together who may (or may not) share and talk about what they’ve been reading – and on the very rare occasion what they’ve been writing. It should be known, though, that throughout most of my late adolescent and adult life, I have been quite suspicious – and maybe even disdainful – of such intellectual coteries. Most probably for the reasons of my (hypocritical) disliking of pretense, not wanting to appear less intelligent than my fellow man, and perhaps greatest of all: my fear of being exposed as a fake. It’s a peculiar tension I’ve known seeing that I have always studied literature and, for the most part, have felt very affectionate – indeed, passionate – towards it. I don’t know what exactly it was this time that persuaded me otherwise to join this particular group, but what I want to express now that I have, and what I cannot deny, is that meeting with these two friends of mine to share and discuss literature has had quite an unforeseen and – dare I say it – profound effect on me. And it’s the word ‘share’ that is the important one here.
Now, without wanting to give a lesson in ethics, sharing, as we all understand, renders a possession immeasurably more satisfying than if it’s kept to oneself (provided our sharing is unbegrudged). Simply because: sharing brings us closer together – and it is no different with literature. And the part that I have known to be profound, is experiencing how literature has been the medium through which I’ve got to know better these two friends of mine; it has allowed me to glimpse further into their lives. Because hearing how each one understands, say – a poem by Pablo Neruda, or even the nuance of one word, brings me nearer to understanding who they are as individuals. Or perhaps, as often happens, they’ll reveal how certain images within a given text evoke different memories from their lives, and suddenly you’re learning things about someone you might otherwise never hear; suddenly the richness of someone’s life is woven into the richness of a text, and vice-versa, each imbuing the other with a tangible vivacity. Not only, then, am I learning something new about this text, I am learning something new about this person. Depth and meaning are being delightfully saturated. Sharing literature with people, therefore, discussing it, savoring it, sucking the marrow out of it (to borrow a phrase from a famous poet and favorite film of mine), can be like a two-way lens: one seeking out new meaning in the literature, the other casting light into each other’s lives.