Circumstances over the past two months allowed very little opportunity to read, but there was time to think during physical therapy sessions about past reads and their applicability to the current situation of learning to live with one leg. One book that came to mind was The Modern Novel: A Study of the Purpose and the Meaning of Fiction, written by Wilson Follett.
Now, unless you are of an age that takes your interest in writing back to the time when Marion Crane and Norman Bates were only characters in a novel, you may know Wilson Follett only as the author of Modern American Usage.
Follett wrote in the academic style of his day, one that might be considered overwritten in today’s world. But what he has to say is worth wading through. His thoughts on fiction are divided into some twenty-seven areas. Applicable to my situation are his description of two types of experiences, extensive and intensive.
Extensive experiences, he wrote, may be gained “through the obvious expedients of travel and voluntary association with many and various types of people.”
However, intensive experiences, which he maintains are “immeasurably more valuable to a writer,” can never be gained “through any amount of deliberate and conscious seeking.” They must come unsought if they are to come at all; and no man can gain a genuine experience of any joy or sorrow by experimenting purposely with life.”
Living with one leg is definitely an intensive experience, mentally as well as physically. And you don’t have to lose a leg to understand it. You want extensive? Go to the zoo and photograph all the lions. You want intensive? Go to Africa and meet one lion, face to face, on his turf, with no bars in between.