As I sit down to write about Lords of Discipline, I’m having the bizarre experience of momentarily having absolutely no idea what I want to say about it. For someone like me, that’s an anomaly. It’s not that I didn’t like the book. In fact, I loved it. But I didn’t love it because it forged new literary territory or changed how I see the world in some earth shattering way. I loved it because the story is great, the characters are interesting, and the writing is honest.
As a relatively analytical person, it’s easy for me to slip into the mode of trying to “figure things out”, whether “things” is a book, a movie, a poem, a relationship, a big life challenge or whatever. But I’ve also begun to realize that the drive to analyze everything can sometimes have the affect of making it harder to step into and experience something fully. There is something inherently riveting about human drama that goes far beyond whether or not there’s a final lesson that can be extracted from it. I could speculate as to why we love drama so much, but that would be beside the point. With The Lords of Discipline, the point isn’t to figure the book out, the point is to enjoy it.
Thus, I loved the way that Will (protagonist) explores what it means to be good, to be a man, and to be a true friend, but I can’t say that it brought me any closer to understanding those things on an intellectual level. What it did do is pull me into the drama of someone learning what those things mean to him. That drama itself, the struggle of finding definitions of strength, loyalty and morality to live by, is something I can relate to deeply. I imagine that’s the case for most people. So maybe it’s as simple as that: we enjoy stories whose drama speaks deeply to the drama we ourselves experience (sorry, couldn’t help it).
This seems the right moment to pull out this wonderful clip in which Kurt Vonnegut describes the “shapes” of stories we all love.