Author encourages maintaining ‘inner personal library’ of meaningful works

Douglas Murray, an author, reporter and contributor at The Free Press, an online investigative journalism site, introduced a new series recently: “Things Worth Remem- bering.”

As always, supporting independent and/or small journalism is a good thing. For Murray’s series, particularly, the reaped benefits are tenfold.

His overarching theme is the importance of maintaining an inner personal library of impactful literary work. The column’s introduction begins by telling the story of the Soviet writer’s congress in 1937.

Murray explained, as well as words can, the daunting threat that free speech carried at the time. Those who spoke in misalignment of the state approved messages were risking their lives. Boris Pasternak, a renowned writer and anticipated speaker at the congress, had to weigh the repercussions that came with disobedience and those that came with silence.

When it was his turn to speak, he did not succumb to sanctioned pressure. He also did not bellow a pent-up tangent condemning the state. Instead, he spoke two syllables: “Thirty.”

Upon their utterance, the attending writers stood and began to recite Shakespeare’s sonnet.

This story represents only one of innumerable moments in history when the arts functioned as a way for liberalism, community and hope to advance.

Murray, in its telling, emphasizes the importance of not just being vaguely familiar with literary works but the significance of committing works to memory and cementing them within the heart.

These are the places that no regime can seize. These are the holy grounds of humanity.

The mind and the soul are impenetrable.

For those Soviet writers, it was Shakespeare. For others, it is Maya Angelou. Some choose Bukowksi while others select Hemingway, Lorde or Homer. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Jim Croce; they are options, too.

Neither the author nor the medium matter too much – all that matters is the work’s impression and the legacies created as a result.

In the digital age, the access to art’s history can be overwhelming. Where to start, who to admire, what past con-troversies to acknowledge or ignore. It can be difficult to start building a cerebral library.

The University of Detroit Mercy offers a variety of courses that can aid this journey and enhance the human condition.

English Professor Megan Novell leads some of these courses and shares Murray’s emphatic promotion of meaningful literacy.

She teaches Study of Poetry, Study of Fiction and Diverse Voices in Literature (among other classes worth looking into). These are all wonderful places to begin.

Outside of a classroom, read as much as you can.

From classical works to Substack articles, consume as many words as possible.

Watch movies that do not receive box office promotion. Listen to music long forgotten.

Study humanity, know humanity, spread humanity.