My book club has been reading 'The Good Earth' - a timeless classic written by Pearl S. Buck in 1931. It is one of those books that calls you to read sections over and over and then once more aloud for the lyrical beauty of the words.
It is a book about the life of Chinese peasants...about man's fundamental connection to place, to the earth -
"Wang Lung sat smoking, thinking of the silver as it had lain upon the table. It had come out of the earth, this silver, out of his earth that he ploughed and turned and spent himself upon. He took his life from this earth; drop by drop by his sweat he wrung food from it and from the food, silver."
I found myself quite literally wrapped into the story; Buck's simple descriptions bringing the grit of earth to my fingers and scent of it to my nose. It is a stunning book - not only by the simplicity and poetry of her writing, but the fact it was only her second novel (of dozens to come). I love how she pulled me along through images, the pace increasing until she said what she really wanted to say.
"Day by day, beneath the opulence of this city, Wang Lung lived in the foundations of poverty upon which it was laid. With the food spilling out of the markets, with the streets of the silk shops flying brilliant banners of black and red and orange silk to announce their wares, with rich men clothed in satin and in velvet, soft-fleshed rich men with their skin covered with garments of silk and their hands like flowers for softness and perfume and the beauty of idleness, with all of these for the regal beauty of the city, in that part where Wang Lung lived there was not food enough to feed savage hunger and no clothes enough to cover bones."
As I read, I marveled at the author's style and her skill in creating characters that evoked emotion. And how, with every turn, I found myself shaking my head...'no, don't go there Wang Lung...open your eyes....' And through it all, she showed how even very good people have a dark side - and that it is as much a part of who we are as the goodness.
As a writer, I think it is important to read such books, to dwell in them and to read them aloud so my ears can hear the music and rhythm of another's creativity.