Weekly Lit Meme: Life-changing fiction

Your question for the week:

What single work of fiction has had the biggest impact on your life?

I don’t even have to think about this one. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of my life. Published by Richard Bach back in 1970, this novella gives voice to the truths I hold most dear, and it has a way of answering whatever question happens to be gnawing at the edges of my consciousness and disrupting my sleep at any given moment. I read it for the first time when I was a little girl, came back to it as a teenager, and have reread it at virtually every significant moment in my life since then.

In the book, Bach speaks of individuality; courage; perseverance; joy, despair, and the lightning-fast shifts from one to the other as we pursue our dreams; the nature of heaven; the power of forgiveness; the nonsensical nature of self-imposed limitation; and the power each of us has to change the world for the better by loving others enough to see beyond their faults and into their true nature as perfect reflections of a limitless, loving God.

It’s an easy read, but the demands it makes are anything but easy. I sometimes refer to Jonathan Livingston Seagull as Science and Health for Dummies,” because Mary Baker Eddy’s influence on Bach is obvious, but his language is more accessible to modern audiences than Mrs. Eddy’s graceful but sometimes challenging Victorian prose.

Anyone who really wants to understand me probably ought to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Just don’t flatter me by mistaking me for Jonathan. I am neither that even-tempered nor that advanced. Maybe I will be someday, but right now, I am not Jonathan. I’m just part of his Flock, struggling to stay out of my own way long enough to find out what my wings can do.

What work of fiction affected you the most?

Emily

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One Response to Weekly Lit Meme: Life-changing fiction

  1. Wulf Higgins says:

    Months late in reading this (catching up) but had to comment anyway because MY life-changing book would be Richard Bach’s other novel, “Illusions”. I liked JLS, and I read it when I was about 15, but it was “Illusions” that I understood better a few years later. Or rather I didn’t exactly understand it, but its message was clearer to me somehow. Looking back on it after thirty-odd years, I see that I’ve never ceased to learn new things from it. So much of his writing consists of simple ‘how-to’ information (“Think of a blue feather” or “To fly as fast as thought”) put into the mouths of ‘fantasy fiction’ characters. Many other fictional sources have been mined as sources of religious/spiritual/magical practice (Star Trek, Star Wars, Robin of Sherwood, etc.) but thankfully Bach never has. I like the ‘secret in plain sight’ aspect of it, and that apparently nobody else remembers or cares about what he had to tell us. I say ‘apparently’ because obviously YOU do, and I’m sure there are many more of us out there. But we have no need of fan conventions or movie tie-ins.

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