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I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.
Junior has this realization about the interrelation of aesthetic and lived experiences in the eleventh chapter of the novel, “Slouching Toward Thanksgiving,” during a conversation with Gordy. Gordy explains to Junior that to appreciate the whole of a great work of art, you have to appreciate its parts. When it comes to books, that means looking up individual words and researching their history. This makes immediate sense to Junior, for whom reading and learning have been a central component of life, but it also shows just how much of Junior’s energy has been directed toward escaping unpleasant life experiences—such as being bullied or going hungry—by reading books and making art. On the one hand, this is Junior questioning whether he has placed more significance on how he reads than on how he lives. But, on the other hand, Junior arrives at this renewed appreciation for every moment, no matter how difficult, because his literary education led him there. In this sense, books are not an escape from but, rather, an intensification of life.