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Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Best Book I Never Read

Young moose Bruce recently snapped in Eagle River.

I am a notorious reader and book collector. I’ve got two full-sized bookshelves double-stacked with things I haven’t read. What with those shelves reaching maximum capacity, I’ve my collection now overflows onto my nightstand, under the coffee table, and on the end tables of our living room. No matter how many books I buy and/or read, I can always be counted on to find one more I cannot live without.

The latest addition to my must-have list is a book about writing by Lynn Freed. It’s called “Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home” and it is reviewed in the January/February 2006 issue of Bookmarks magazine.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Bookmarks, it is a book-magazine on steroids (in a good way). It features author articles, composite reviews of new books, and various genre and readers lists of long-time favorites. It’s a bibliophiles’ dream magazine, and I take to each new issue with a pen, marking what I have read, feeling elation with each checkmark, and despair over what remains undone.

“Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home” is a must-own book (as versus something I might check out from the library). The Bookmarks review starts with a quote from Ms. Freed: “If it is done right, someone will be hurt.” She is referring to the craft of writing, which she calls an “unforgiving, violent affair.” (Already I’m identifying with her.) She also says that writing cannot be taught, and that mere intention does not make a writer. (I’m glad I’m slightly past the “intention” benchmark. At least I am doing some writing.)

When a mere 200-word review evokes in me the desire to turn off the phone, cancel all my appointments, turn on the TV for the kids, and just WRITE, then either it has the potential of being a profoundly formative book, or it is an exceptionally evocative book review.

I know that I will never learn the craft of writing by reading books, or perhaps not even by taking a class (Freed should know: she teaches writing). The appeal of Freed’s book is that her lament of the difficult and enigmatic writing-life, will somehow validate for me that I am doing something right, because sometimes sitting down at the computer to write is more painful than having a toenail removed. (I should know.)

Anymore, when I write, it is an act of faith. At some point in the past, I have felt a calling, and so I write: even when unmotivated, even when consumed with doubt, even when I have absolutely nothing to say.

If, in the process of saying nothing, something is actually said, then a mystery occurs: the words becomes “flesh”; they are seen, heard, and felt by others. It is for that reason I carry on; hitting keys faster, then slower, then faster again. And sometimes, when I am done, I go back and reread, and something even more mysterious happens: I believe.


At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Cow he was close to that moose! Tyler is jealous!!!


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