Some Musings on Purpose

Forgive me, readers, for I have been neglectful. It’s been nearly a month since my last post. In fairness, however, I have been pondering this post for quite some time, trying to decide how I wanted to format this post and the blog in general. In truth, life has also kept me quite busy and rather tired. Hopefully, I’m more organized, now, and I can make it up to you. Thank you for your patience.

The literary, and indeed the reading world (myself included) spend a lot of time judging the value of written composition. Avid readers can’t even reach a consensus on the top 100 books of all time, much less the value of a specific work. It’s the wonder of reading: a story for everyone, and it keeps things interesting.

We all do it- that’s half the point of this blog. Because I’m doing this, I thought it was important to consider how I look at the reviews, because it’s probably different for everyone.  Obviously, I like to look at the elements, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing. However, there are other things I am going to include, especially as the blog progresses, such as theories and potential for learning in these works.

Most importantly, I want to address purpose. Books, like people, have different goals and purposes. Some entertain while pointing out philosophical or social truths and paradoxes (some of my personal favourites), while others theorize, criticize, rationalize, or perform many other “izes” to try to contribute to the greater social or literary schema. Others are written strictly for escapeism, with no goals of influence or philisophical intrigue. They flitter about for pure amusement.

In analyzing any book, I find it only appropriate to keep these purposes in mind, for the purpose will obviously drive much of the book. While it can be difficult to read a book and discover it’s actual purpose (How are we ever to truly know intention?), we can get an idea from it’s general manner and style. Some books demand you unpack them and ponder every syllable, while others lay out their wares, exclaiming, “Ooh, shiny! Come, have a look.”

In these latter cases, some great fun is to be had, as long as the reader resists the tempation to look under the polish for profound substance. These are best enjoyed in an afternoon, curled up in a chair with a snack full of taste but skimming on nutritional value. Prepare, reader, to suspend your own dogged reality and ideas of how the world is, and open to how the world could be, might be, or may never, ever be (and in some cases, that itself is fortunate, indeed). The magic of the story and of writing is the sudden ability to defy many rational laws and instead create new ones that may or may not resemble the ones to which we subject ourselves on a daily basis.  It is this shift from reality, even from our own preconceptions that is the gift of escapist writing.

Many may disagree with me; as readers and writers we develop our own standards for composition and stories themselves. I embrace this by saying that as books have different purposes, readers have varied needs, and these needs are hardly stable. Readers have different needs at different times, which makes the diverse creations of the written word so appealing. Somewhere, there is a constant book waiting to fulfill wavering need.

How, then, to assess a book? It’s no easy task, and certainly my opinions are no more than my simple opinions.  I suggest that, considering possible purposes for a book, looking at it’s fulfillment of the most likely purpose, it’s style, and search for what benefit it brings or could bring a reader. Instead of discerning overall worth of this book over that one, I hope to instead discover the potentail voids each book has been designed to or potentially could fill for readers. It’s a large order, indeed. My ideas are certainly biases by my own literary needs and preferences, but I hope to find a wealth of benefit from reading a diverse library of works, particularly aimed at or at least useful to older children, adolescents, and anyone else young at heart.

That said, I will end my musings and resume my reviewing.  The next review will be the first of a two-part review, looking at the two current books in the Tortall/Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce. If you’re looking for the books, the first is Beka Cooper: Terrier. The second is Beka Cooper: Bloodhound.

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