The Holy Fire

Look – we all know there are some horrible books out there. Serious crap. We’ve all read them. I’ve read them. In fact, I’ve written some of them. There is some serious ripe shit.

But, I believe, as Jorge Luis Borges said, that “all books are divine.” Even the crappiest by-the-numbers thriller or fantasy novel have a divine spark – maybe just a sliver – but it’s there. A real person’s thoughts are contained in those pages, and when a reader encounters that book, something magical always happens.

Some critics and writers complain that fiction can’t completely express the human condition. That may be true in a way, but the fact is, unlike most storytelling, with literature the reader brings their own imagination into the deal, and that imagination and thought process bridges the gap between what’s possible and what’s eternal. A novel or a short story is a symbiosis between the writer and reader. While a film or TV show might cast light in a room despite no one watching it, a book must be read.

The reader fills in the empty spaces in a writer’s work with their own creations. When we are told, “a person walks into a room,” that reader brings their own conception of what a person is to that sentence. The writer might explain that person further, describing their hair and clothes and movements. But it’s the reader who imbues that character with life.

That is divinity. That is the Holy Fire.