For the past three days, I have been ill. I’ve been struck down with a horrid case of strep throat, which has seen me bound to the couch, with a great deal of free time on my hands. During that free time I have made the horrible mistake of thinking, well, I guess “hallucinating” would be more accurate, as a good deal of that free time was spent in the grip of a fever. Whether lucid or confused, excessive thinking often leads me to ruin…or at least more thinking.
In my living room – where the couch is – I have a sixteen foot wall, nine feet high, covered in book shelves. I cannot say that I have every book I’ve ever owned, but I have a good quantity of them. And, as I sat, sweaty and miserable, they took on the appearance of a road map of my life, spelled out in a series of yellowed, don-eared pages.
Standing in front of my bookshelf the last couple of days, I would pluck books off the shelf at random, open them to a page towards the middle, and have a look inside. I don’t remember the subtle nuances of each book, but I remember the feeling of them, the pleasure they generated during specific sections of my life. I remember leaning on them in the rough times of growing up, I remember the hurt they helped to bandage and the bruises they helped to mend. In looking at them now I hoped to re-capture some of that lost feeling they generated then, to find a little of that old courage still lingering among the crackling pages.
I discovered that not all feelings are meant to last, but some meanings are never forgotten.
As I’ve worked on the craft of writing, and my own ability as a story-teller has grown, my tastes and needs in my own reading has changed. What fascinated me when I was twelve, doesn’t necessarily do it for me now. But on the other hand, some of the voices that spoke to me from the page when I was a boy are even louder now that I’m a man.
Sometimes I can still lean on those old characters, and they shore me up and push me forward. Sometimes I find very little of substance and we all fall over.
When I look at those old books that don’t speak to me as clearly now as they did two decades ago, I cannot think they are bad – although if I read them for the first time today, I might, indeed, think they sucked. They gave me what I needed at the time, they spoke to the audience that I was then, and the memory of them remains, even if the voice has faded a little.
I cannot help but wonder, then, how my work will be viewed in years to come. Will anyone even read it, or remember it ten years from now? Will it be remembered fondly by those that did read it, or line the bottom of someone’s hamster cage? – just more shit among the little brown droppings.
As I look at my collection of books, at my own personal road map, I have hope for my own work. I hope that it will be looked back on as a way-stone in someones life – a mile marker on a small victory, perhaps a lesson learned or a goal achieved. I hope that someone will think well of it, even if they found they have out-grown it a year from now.
I hope that someone is able to lean on me, even if I do have a tendency to fall over.
As always, thanks for reading.