Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt, and poignant; a work of art, in comparison, is neat, finite, self-contained, rational, flowing, and emasculate. Life imposes by brute energy, like inarticulate thunder; art catches the ear, among the far louder noises of experience, like an air artificially made by a discreet musician.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
In other words, art provides meaning unavailable to us in the chaotic reality of living, frames a space for us to experience and understand what would otherwise be missed, or even lost, in life’s confusion.
The sickly, Scottish son of a lighthouse designer, Stevenson wrote many of the classics of our time, traveled widely, worked hard, but died young, in Samoa, where a Samoan mourning song was written for him, which is apparently still sung.
A Child’s Garden of Verses is a must-read-to-children book. The poems are magical, mysterious, funny, clever, and express perfectly a child’s world. Children also like sounds and suggestions, they seem to be OK with not understanding poetry–unlike many adults!
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A classic, describing sociopathy long before that term was in use, and writing in a genre that had not yet been invented: horror.
Treasure Island. The classic adventure story, written in, of all places, Davos Switzerland, where Stevenson had gone to recover from his various illnesses. Pirates, treasure maps, and buried treasure.