Arundhati Roy wrote a beautiful and heart-wrenching story, The God of Small Things, which won her the Booker Prize in 1997. Though the book is fiction, what she writes about a Kathakali play, as the main characters Estha and Rahel watch it in the History House, is universal.
“The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t.”
I finished reading Arundhati Roy’s book the other night, and the story sat with me for a long time. I knew the fate of the characters as the story unfolded, but I read anyway. The end grabbed my heart and pulled me down for a while. It was painful. But, for me, closing the book and wandering through the rest of my day with the characters at the forefront of my mind is clear evidence of a great story (even if it hasn’t won an award).
A different author wrote a blog post on a different subject, but it resonated with me as much as the quote from Arundhati Roy’s novel. Michelle Davidson Argyle, aka. Lady Glamis from The Literary Lab, reflects about knowing when we’re writing honestly:
“Magic. That’s what seems to happen when I manage to get honesty into my writing. It’s like a memorable, catchy song where everything comes together and it makes me feel a mixture of emotions that reach more deeply than I thought was possible. I look into the mirror and I see me, but I don’t see me. It has become a creation that took on a life of its own. My honesty gave it that life.”
I’ve settled into the magic of a great story many times. And,I’ve ridden the magical roller coaster of honest writing a few times, when the details of a story pour out in smooth succession: thrills, chills, and elation.
Those are the reasons why I love literature, and why I keep coming back to writing.
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1998 (p. 218). Print.
Argyle, Michelle Davidson. “That Song was Dinner.” The Literary Lab, November 19, 2009. Online.