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Russian Reality Check - blog post about Nabokov and literature - LitWits.com

Russian Reality Check

by Jenny

I’m reading in the garden as the sunrise splinters through the trees – a short story by Nabokov, my first. When I finish it I set the book aside and sit in the eastern light, dazed. I’m suffused with awareness that this is why we read. To be blown away by the artful intensification of life – to be drenched in sensory details, to view the world from fresh angles, to comprehend truths that connect us across space and time.

Even my immediate world is taking on a new color and tone and degree of intensity. The light seems more radiant, the hum of the waves more vibrant, the trill of the birds more pronounced. For me it is the language that has done this, more than the plot; the story left me craving resolution. But that’s exactly what a writer like Nabokov would have intended. Rouse our awareness, create a situation, and leave us to figure it out. Not just the story, of course, but ourselves.

It’s not a new thought, but this first venture into Nabokov has given me a new experience of that thought, of the power of perfect expression to intensify life and meaning. It reminds me that what we’re trying to accomplish at LitWits is not a study of great texts but an experience of their power. The way I feel this morning in this garden is the way we want our LitWits kids to feel in our sensory workshops – full of wonder at the real world. By actually holding, tasting, hearing, smelling, and looking at the things we’ve read about, the story gets up off the pages and lives. And those sensory props help kids connect, not just with books but with the real life those books are about.

There’s a wide-eyed look that kids get when they make this crucial connection. As a parent or teacher or both, you’ve seen that look yourself – and if I had a mirror at hand, I’d see it right now. Our goal at LitWits is to inspire that look on as many faces as possible. To bring life into high relief through great books. To help kids taste, breathe, feel, hear, and see that whether a story actually happened or not – it’s real.

Do you remember making a connection like this — whether as a child or an adult? We’d love to hear about it in the Comments, below.

Jenny Walicek

3 Comments
  • Jenny

    November 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Hi Mary! Thank you so much – I’m so glad it helped you remember a special moment of your own. They are all around us all the time, aren’t they — those moments of realization waiting to be realized! Great books often snap those moments into focus for me.

  • Mary

    November 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm Reply

    Jenny, your first paragraph was magical for me. You put into words my exact feelings when I read Shakespeare, as if my world is so much richer, more colorful, more meaningful simply because he put words to paper.

  • Becky

    August 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm Reply

    Jenny, this is so absolutely true, and beautifully said. EVERY single time I pick up a great novel and start to be swept up in it I feel this way, and every time I vow to never be without a great book. Because life is too short to be lived apart from the lens of great lit that infuses everyday life with depth and meaning and light. This IS why (one of the reasons) we want our kids to make friends with books. Thank you for saying it so well.

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