During my last semester of college, I took a “filler class” to complete the philosophy credits of my degree. Philosophy of Art was the name of the course, and topics such as expressionism, moral and aesthetic value, and artistic taste were studied. One question that continually arose during the course was what we really meant when we said a work of art was “good”. Some students agreed that a work of art was “good”, or held significant value, if it was simply aesthetically pleasing. Other students believed that emotion needed to be play a part when art was being evaluated. “Good art,” it was argued, held significant value if it moved an audience.
In Philosophy, there never seems to be a “right” answer to any argument, but I finished the course believing that the emotional connection we have with a masterpiece—the feelings we take away with us after watching a play, looking at a painting, or reading a book—is what gives significant value to art. That’s not to say that aesthetic value is overlooked, but in my opinion, what separates the extraordinary from the average is that extraordinary work has the ability to move us and change our ways of thinking.
Many times have I found myself sobbing like a baby while reading a tragic novel. I remember finding a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood in the back of my brother’s car and reading it from start to finish with tears for every alternate chapter. Murakami was able to help the reader dive into an anxious and uneasy world by way of his young characters and touch on topics such as lost love, mental illness, and death. Other sad and memorable novels I love are The Awakening by Kate Chopin (the last page left me distraught for days), and of course, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Time and again I’ve tried to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, but this novel seems to be a little too depressing for me to finish. My favorite writers are those who are able to lure me into their fictional worlds, usually by writing books that make me cry!
Over at the Huffington Post, Jason Pinter gave us the responses from a question he asked on Twitter about books that made readers cry. And although I complain that some novels may be too emotionally-charged to read, I love a good tear jerker and would love to hear what books moved you and had you reaching for the tissues.