One summer when I was 17, I stumbled on Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. I had just dropped out of high school and wasn’t exactly choosy in my reading; I would happily read horror and detective thrillers along with the classics. I didn’t really see the difference.
For Whom the Bell Tolls changed all that. Looking back, I know it was the first time I discovered art on my own terms, the first time I sensed the difference between literature and entertainment. But at 17, all I understood for sure was that it had enough plot to keep me turning the pages. I could feel that something was different — the book had a strong emotional effect on me — though I had no idea why. All I really knew was that I loved it, and that something in me was changing.
Which is what any real piece of art does — it affects you in ways you don’t understand. It’s how music works, it’s how love works, it’s how the human brain is wired. The things we don’t understand affect us a lot more than the things we do. A few years after reading For Whom the Bell Tolls, I realized I was a writer. That book was certainly what set me on that path.
Meyer’s latest novel is The Son
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