Friday, February 6, 2009

Yesteryears Yield 2/06/09

To be alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations - such is a pleasure beyond company.

Kenko Yoshida
TGIF my friend.

When I was a student in High School I had one of those rare but memorable enlightening experiences which changed me and set me going in a certain direction for the rest of my life. I had an English teacher named Mr. Bush who taught literature in such a way as made me realize that a book was not just a book and words on a page were not just words, but that behind all of those words was a human being, a mind and a heart. That the words were carefully chosen to exactly express the thoughts, feelings, life experiences and influences of that human being.

It became important to me to know who this man was who wrote these words, and I knew I would find the man in his books. It was a process of looking past the message to the messenger.

I thought about these writers and wondered what kind of lives they led and what they had to deal with in those lives. How current were the things they wrote about and the way they wrote about them. The love affair might be over but the pain of loss and rejection are still there, perhaps tempered with some wisdom of time and space. The stinging retort against the injustice of the world may be based on something simple or something grand but the words still hold the power of a sensitive soul, The rich evocations of people and things show a careful and observant mind and a wealthy imagination. Simple details that most people would pass by not noticing are food for the writer.

Then I wonder if he had to write for a living, if he had a needy household to support. Did he have to turn out a book under a deadline? How did he respond to the inane, carping remarks of critics? How did he deal with an obstinate publisher or an inept printer?

Slowly the author became a human being. When I hold a book in my hand I'm holding a man's life. And he has given me and the world a priceless gift.

Now I write. Most probably no one in the distant future will be reading my words but I have at least learned a new/old truth. An artist is an artist because he has to be.

Vagabond Journey
May something make you want to dance today.


Gerry said...

I watched John Updike on Charley Rose today in a tribute to this writer's life, and toward the end he talked about having to die, and I thought here is novelist who has been in the limelight with his books for years, and yet here comes death to us both as the leveler, we all must die, as I am often reminded that I need to get ready for the crossing or whatever it might be. I could not think of meeting him or Charlie Rose in this life, but at death we might find something to say to one another, after the dust of passing has settled!

Big Mark 243 said...

Wanted to let you know that I will prolly be turning this over in my head for a little bit. Thanks for posting it.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Holding a persons life in your hands, in the form of a book - very powerful message my friend.

Beth said...

Or she. ;)