by Kevin Neilson
According to the world’s most famous pessimist, Schopenhauer thinks boredom is one of the gravest threats to the quality of human life. Like pain, boredom can have a terribly corrosive effect on the will. But a pessimist is only as insightful as the pragmatic advice he offers. How do we deliver ourselves from evil? Go down the rabbit hole of aesthetic experience — and prepare to be changed.
Who are you?
My name is Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and I am the founding editor of Conclave: A Journal of Character. I am a Ukrainian American writer with a passion for well-crafted characters and a penchant for magic realism. When I’m not creating or editing stories, I am sharing adventures (real and imagined) with my husband and three young children.
What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
The last book I read was nonfiction, The Enchanted Hunters by Maria Tatar. The book is a discussion of the impact of stories upon children, and while interesting, Tatar’s selection of stories is limited (several of my favorites were not included). It also seems directed at an audience who would not expect children’s literature to be complex and transformational. How could it be anything but transformational?
My favorite part of the book is its end, where Tatar looks at boredom as the impetus for many of the adventures in children’s literature, highlighting Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat as examples. It was a good reminder that in our frenetic culture and overscheduled lives, kids today need the time and space to create their own adventures.
If you could meet a character on the holodeck, who would it be? And what would you do?
Several of my favorite characters are from books where much of the conflict is internal, so if we were to meet on the holodeck, we might have a great conversation, but that’s about it (Stevens from Ishiguro’s The Remain of the Day, for example.) So, for the holodeck, I would choose to have tea, followed by a mythic adventure with Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings; or to attend one of Jay Gatsby’s fabulous dinner parties.
Where / what was your most memorable reading experience?
One of my more recent memorable reading experiences was among the ancient Ġgantija temples on the island of Gozo, where I read The God Who Begat a Jackal by Nega Mezlekia. My eldest daughter, who was a baby at that time, had fallen asleep. We had some time until the next ferry, so I pulled out my book and notebook and did a little reading /writing. There was something otherworldly about reading a novel set in 18th century Ethiopia while sitting in the shadow of megalithic temples built around 3500 BCE on a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea.
In the best of all possible worlds, which novelist should have the right ear of President Obama?
Assuming that the dead can speak in the best of all possible worlds, Sir Arthur C. Clarke would be my choice. President Obama seems to have a handle on many of the great lessons taught by literature: empathy, courage, integrity, moral heroism. What could Sir Arthur C. Clarke offer President Obama? In a word: vision. Clarke’s many works incorporate art and science, often acting as a bridge between the two. Innovative and brilliant: Clarke’s work helped to shape attitudes toward space travel and lead to many scientific and cultural advances.
Clarke’s Second Law basically says that the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. There remains a high level of expectations for the Obama Presidency, and the President must make difficult decisions for our increasingly xenophobic and economically frustrated nation. I believe that Clarke would have been an informed yet visionary counsel.
How is reading like writing?
The best stories act as thresholds, whether I am reading or (hopefully) writing them. They allow us to cross over into new worlds; and even if we cross the same threshold and revisit beloved books, we still gain something unique. We are transformed.
In moments when I am immersed in writing a story, the rest of the world falls away, and I am completely present in the new world I am creating. When I’m reading, there is this same almost-mythic experience—where I lose touch with reality in exchange for a new literary creation.
Why do you read?
I read poetry for the sensual experience of the language. I read fiction (and nonfiction) for the adventure: for the thrill of immersing myself in a new place, a new time, a new idea. I delve into a book with the same curiosity and reverence with which I explore ancient monuments or engage an interesting artist in conversation about her work.
Sometimes there is crossover, and I relish those times: when a book like Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses envelopes me in the story, even as the lavish language engages my ear: the rhythm, the clarity, the intensity. It’s a literary delight.