Architecture and Books

In his book, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Victor Hugo spends a great deal of time talking about architecture. (The last few years I have been delving into the classics!) Besides spending thirty plus pages simply describing the formation, layout, character, and changes to the city of Paris, he spends a whole chapter dissecting a statement from one of his characters: “The book will kill the edifice.”

The argument is twofold. First, that the new age of learning and literature would overflow the age of the church. Second, that the book was literally the new form of architecture. Of course he goes on to explain this in detail. He claims that architecture was literally a form of writing before the printing press was invented. Men used stone and structure to communicate all of their major ideas. It certainly  is worth thinking about. Before the days of the printing press everything had to be hand copied, or copied with block letters. Ideas were passed on through conversation. The great cathedrals certainly did have a great impression on the every day life of the people.

I love architecture. I miss the classic/historic architecture found throughout Europe that is so obviously missing in America. I do think buildings represent ideas. As a kid we used to move a lot and so I experienced a large variety of houses. The structure and layout of a house has always been important to me. In middle school I used to spend hours sketching our floor plans. A house is more than just a structure to protect for the elements. It provides space. It provides the shell and the context for your life. It can, in a large part, determine how you feel while you are inside. Trapped? Cut off from sunlight? Or protected? Some houses allow the air to pass through and mix with the sunshine in a manner that make you feel alive.

In a sense, that is what I would like to accomplish with my writing. I want to create a space for my reader to interact with the characters, the plot, and the setting. The greatest writing I have read allows the reader to take ownership of the story. Sometimes I am afraid that I get so very specific with my vision that I shut the reader out. I’m not sure how to change that. I’m not sure how to create a world where I invite the reader to participate, but I’m working on it.

And I think it goes without saying that if I could write a book that was as lasting and magnificent as the cathedral of Notre Dame, I would die a happy woman. I believe it is possible…


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