I love to read. I read just about everything - classics, historical fiction, sci-fi, memoirs, young adult, mystery - I read it all. I love the places I could otherwise never go and the people I could otherwise never meet in a book.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is one book that I never finished. To be honest with you, I've only read the first couple of chapters. I know the gist of the rest of the book is rather depressing, and I'm not sure I'm ready to alter the beautiful image the beginning paints of the characters.
Sinclair opens the first chapter describing a very dismal meat packing district in turn of the century Chicago that he refers to as "back of the yards". The remainder is spent setting the happy and hopeful atmosphere of a wedding.
Each character is given special attention as we get to know their background, struggles, and strengths. A page about the bride, another for the groom, a paragraph here and there for the other characters. But of all the people Sinclair describes, he spends the most time on the musicians.
His eloquent description of the musicians is something that stayed with me, and is a paragraph I can always find when I pick up a copy of this book -
"The musicians—how shall one begin to describe them? All this time they have been there, playing in a mad frenzy—all of this scene must be read, or said, or sung, to music. It is the music which makes it what it is; it is the music which changes the place from the rear room of a saloon in back of the yards to a fairy place, a wonderland, a little corner of the high mansions of the sky."
"...it is out of this material that they have to build their lives, with it that they have to utter their souls. And this is their utterance; merry and boisterous, or mournful and wailing, or passionate and rebellious, this music is their music, music of home. It stretches out its arms to them, they have only to give themselves up."
At some point in his life, a musician made such an impact on Upton Sinclair to put these words in his mind. I know this is not the message Sinclair was trying to send when he wrote this book, but it's my message that I take from it. -- I can only hope that by sharing my little corner of the high mansions of the sky and speaking my utterance, I will one day make such an impact.