Saturday, March 28, 2009

While Reading Alice Hoffman...

I’ve discovered a love for Alice Hoffman books over the past few years. One of the reasons I enjoy her writing style stems from the fact that it’s so different from my own. Her stories always have the mystical or supernatural about them. The characters she creates are usually in the midst of a crisis or an experience paralyzes them emotionally. They are not always likeable and are usually a bit odd, but these characteristics make them beautifully human. The point of crises tends to make them more emotionally raw and honest. Hoffman’s ability to create a world that reflects these emotions fascinates me. Her descriptions of the world surrounding her characters are often heartbreakingly beautiful. And the supernatural occurrences feel like a reflection of truth – nature comes alive, a character all its own.

I was reading the final pages of “Second Nature” this afternoon. This book is not nearly as lovely and strange as some of her other novels, such as “The Probable Future” or “The Ice Queen,” but it contains many of the elements I enjoy in her novels. Faced with crisis or loss of control, the characters become more open to their passions and less restrained by convention. Without these restraints, they behave in ways that are unconventional. Doing so is incredibly freeing, confusing, delightful, and painful. As I read, I am overcome by their passionate reaction to life and the way nature mirrors this passion.

When Hoffman’s characters fall in love amidst these circumstances, their senses overtake them. They abandon restraint and behave instinctually. Their passion is blinding, disorienting, wonderful. The results can be maddening, disastrous, delightful, and awe-inspiring. Passion consumes them. In the midst of this ardor, her characters often make choices that go against what is expected of them or cause them to behave in surprising ways. While this is a pattern amongst her characters, it does not create sameness or dull similarity. Instead, it is simply amazing how the effect of these emotions varies so greatly in her character’s lives.

Hoffman’s novels filled my thoughts as I drove alone to the store this afternoon. I considered the way an intimate connection to another person alters her character’s lives. You cannot explain what is happening to them with logic. The world comes alive instead – roses, lightening, an oddly constructed house, embody human emotion and experience.

I considered how characters can so quickly align their hearts, minds, and lives with another. How intimacy causes them to behave in unexpected ways – they are brave, niave, impetuous, and vulnerable. What once seemed important is often revealed as trivial in the face of love. I wondered what I would do for my love, how I would respond if he were threatened, what I would give up to be with him, or keep secret to ensure his safety.

I love how Hoffman’s novel invited me to examine love in this way. In truth, when I think of losing Tim, I literally wince, every time. I know I would forgive much of him, forgo my comfort for his own, and defend him in the face of logic. Before I met him, I’m not sure I could have connected to the passion felt by Hoffman’s characters. While my life does not require me to demonstrate my love in these dramatic ways, it’s amazing and wonderful to consider the passion beneath the surface, the intensity of your emotion, the beauty of the connection you feel to another person.

1 comment:

Photographer: Rebecca Pierce said...

I'm intrigued! I'll have to remember that if I pick up a book in the next ten years! I'm such a disappointment to the world of English degree holders!