Can you feel the heartbeat?
I am drawn to clever plots and smart dialogue and complex characters, but if I can’t hear the heartbeat of a story, I am left wanting.
The promise of heart is appealing: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Crimes of the Heart, the Telltale Heart, Heart of Darkness. I am grateful when there is a real beat behind the lure of a title, rendering the word more than titillation. Would psychosis be as personal, as exhilarating, as relatable were it not for Poe’s titular heart thumping in our brains, pounding its warning to our souls?
Even without the promise within the title, however, there is more. What would Beloved be without Sethe’s caged heartbeat? Or Clarke’s Jonathan Strange without his desperate ticker? Would Carver’s The Elephant be so moving without the plodding cardio workout of its narrator? Would Chabon’s war-time New York City seem so real and alive without the ravaged heart of Kavalier or the repressed core of Klay? And what of Tsukuru’s aching Colorless heart or Wanda’s heart, which has been Broken for You, when Murakami and Kallos respectively introduce us?
There are others…so many others that have become my friends through the years, will become my friends once read.
How does the beat go on? First on the page, then echoing in our own hearts? What words do these authors use to catch the rhythm? How can their sentences and paragraphs and chapters – mere words strung together – set our hearts aflutter (or a-pounding or an-aching)? What magic makes us feel the spiked line of an EKG as it pulls us into their story? What truths have they eloquently revealed?
A story with heart is like Bolero on the page, romping among the words. A symphony of feeling. Motion in the poetry.
Not all authors can capture that essential heart…and some are successful only sporadically. But when they do…ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum!