I saw a picture of a book dedication today:
And it was like someone had crept up behind me and whispered in my ear, “that’s you! You’ve got super messy hair and your heart’s a desiccated thirst-monster”
So of course, I had to find out where it came from. Answer: Jodi Lynn Anderson Tiger Lily
This may be the first time I decide to read a book based solely on the dedication.
Another awesome thing I found was this poet guy: Brendan Constantine
His second volume of poetry is called Birthday Girl with Possum. This appeals to me in so many ways because. Way number one – POSSUMS. Way two: I love the name Constantine, and was even partial to the Keanu Reeves movie of the same name because angry priests with a mission really do it for me, and Keanu Reeves does it for me even more because he waved to my friend one time, and he seems low key and super nice, and also, HIS FACE. And number three-way (teehee, three-way!), volumes of poetry? I didn’t know they still did that!
Anyway, I went on Amazon and checked out the book preview, read a couple poems, felt a stir from the tousle-haired girl who used to stare at tree-branches latticed against the sky, then felt like crying. So now I kind of want to go to a gigantic bookstore, find this book, and read it all afternoon before I buy it.
But I don’t like visiting bookstores anymore because I get too overwhelmed by the options. Also, I’m easily fooled by appearances, so I often start reading a book just because the book jacket appeals to me, and before I know it I’ve read 150 pages on passive-aggressive summer drama in the Hamptons. This is not something I’m interested in. Although it’s getting harder and harder to decide what I’m actually interested in these days.
All I know is I like books that hold an entire world inside its covers, written well enough so that I can zoom into the details if I want to, a world that is done so well that I can plop myself right in the middle of it if the urge strikes. I like books with lines that I chew over and over again, with sentences that I can read a hundred times. I like books printed on paper that’s a little bit rough, and when you’re reading, you really feel like you’re reading. I like books that are sad, human, dark, rueful, bright, and funny, that make my heart creak open.
The thing is, as a writer, I want to write books that fit these criteria, but all the time I’m afraid I can’t, that I’m not able. I’ve read a lot of books, from Dan Brown to Stephen King to Tolkien to Nabokov to Francine Pascal. Some of them became a part of me, and others I enjoyed but forgot as soon as I put them down, and still others I plainly loathed. But I get afraid that I lack the stamina to write a book that’s even as good as the ones I hated. So that stops me, sometimes. I stop writing for long periods of time. I’ve heard some writers say that they can’t NOT write, but I’ve never found that to be true for me. I’m still the same person when I don’t write, just, more firmly grounded in reality, I guess. I spend more time thinking about stuff I want to buy, or what so and so said to me and what she meant by it, or when people are going to start respecting me. I don’t hear the music as much, or smell the air in New Zealand at night, or think about the taste of food. I think because I don’t notice things as much because I’m not looking for material.
I’m the same person, just more blunted.
Today, I started writing out a story I scribbled the bones of in a notebook I lost a long time ago. I never took it seriously until today because the whole thing came into being so quick it felt too easy, and it’s sort of a fairy tale, and though I love fairy tales, for some reason I’ve never respected them as much as I should:
There once was a young man whose parents passed within a month of each other, leaving him behind only a bare acre of sallow land and a crooked little hovel with the roof all slanting down one side. The young man’s name was Po, and he was a simple boy with a simple soul, and all that can be said for him is that he wasn’t the type to lie down and die.
After he buried his parents, he lived mostly on weeds and tree bark through the winter, wrapping himself in straw to keep warm. Come springtime, Po wrestled with the hard, rocky land and planted what seed was left over from his parents’ last harvest. Nothing grew for the first few weeks after planting, and Po began to despair as the fields to his east and west were covered with a dusting of green. It wasn’t until May that the first sprout pushed through the hard, unforgiving dirt, and when Po saw it, he knelt over it and wept.
Summer came, stopping the rain, so Po began walking to and from the village well, bringing water to his small plot of land which suddenly seemed vast indeed. By the time the harvest moon rose over his little hovel, fifteen year old Po had left boyhood far behind, and the first fine wrinkles were already creeping toward his brow. He took the better half of his harvest to market, and though his squash was malformed and his cabbage full of holes, he made enough to buy a scrawny chicken and some seed for the next year. That winter, the chicken ate better and more regularly than Po, and lived with him inside the hovel. After a particularly bitter snowstorm, it died , and Po held the dead chicken in his arms the whole night through. He cooked and ate it the next morning, and was sick.
Four years passed. Life did not get easier for Po, but it did not get worse either, until the summer of the fifth year when there was a drought.
One day in July, six weeks into the drought, Po was walking back from the village well. His mind was full of thoughts of his crops and the way their leaves were starting to curl and turn yellow. He now regretted his decision to plant watermelons in the spring, as the plants were thirsty all the time, and the village well was running lower and lower. Both buckets were less than half full, and their weight on his shoulders was distressingly light. He was parched himself, but had not allowed himself a sip of water all day. The sun beat down like a brand on his back, but he pressed on, one step feebler than the next, until his feet were so heavy he felt he could not go on. He stood there, swaying in the sun, thinking about his parents. He hadn’t thought of them in so long that he couldn’t remember their faces anymore, only a vague shadow in the spaces of his memory where once they had loomed so large. An unspeakable sadness welled up within him, and for the third time in six years, Po cried.