Let me make one thing clear on the front end of this piece: why someone writes is their business. No artist of any kind is under any obligation to explain why he or she creates. Responding with, I’m sorry, but that’s none of your business, is a just response. It is no one’s business.
As far as I’m concerned, whatever it takes a writer to put words on a page is fine with me. First off, the page can be a hard place to get to and, once there, the necessary experience of being fully present in the moment can be heavy lifting at times. Its the words, the writing that I care most about. An actor who hopes to win an Oscar is no more betraying the craft of acting than a writer who hopes to win a Pulitzer is betraying the craft of writing. Wanting or hoping for an accolade is not a betrayal of creative purity. To think it is is misguided in the best light, and rubbish in any other light.
I have no problem explaining, to some extent, why I write. For some years now my short answer has been pretty much the same: Sometimes I write because I want to, always I write because I have to. I suppose I could polish that sentence into finer stuff, but I’m leaving it as it is because it was born that way.
It is the sanctuary of language itself that brings me to the page, writing or reading. As far back as I can remember, books and writing have provided sanctuaries I could depend on. Even when I was homeless they were they. I am not by nature a thief, but, when I was on the street, I had no problem at all pinching paperback books off those always-squeaky! book racks in drugstores.
Language is a living thing for me. Words are living beings; they have shape, movement, sound; they each have their own pulse; they can be moody. I short, words have personality, every damn one of them.
And then, of course, there is this: language is great company. I am never alone when I write or read. Like I said: Sometimes I write because I want to, always I write because I have to.
As those of you who’ve been following this blog over its 10-year life span know, I have the admittedly self-indulgent habit of publishing the list of books I read in a given year. I would give all the gold in the world to see the list of books my parents and grandparents read. When I read a book I know someone in my family read, I know I am hiking on a trail of words they hiked before me. It’s a nice feeling. I miss them all, beyond the reach of any words ever written.
- The English Major, by Jim Harrison
- Greenwich, by Howard Fast
- The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
- Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley
- Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual, by Nicholas Murray
- The Big Seven, by Jim Harrison
- Appointment in Samarra, by John O’Hara
- The Great Leader, by Jim Harrison
- The Summer He Didn’t Die, by Jim Harrison
- The African Queen, by C.S. Forester
- The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2), by Agatha Christie
- Legends of the Fall, by Jim Harrison
- Break In (Kit Fielding, #1), by Dick Francis
- The River Swimmer: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
- The Ancient Minstrel: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
- Letting Go, by Philip Roth
- The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
- The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley
- Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo
- A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1), by Anthony Powell
- Dangerous Davies, the Last Detective, by Leslie Thomas
- The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13), by Agatha Christie
- A Buyer’s Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2), by Anthony Powell
- Dangerous In Love, by Leslie Thomas
- The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3), by Anthony Powell
- Can You Forgive Her?, Volume I, by Anthony Trollope
- At Lady Molly’s (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4), by Anthony Powell
- Dangerous By Moonlight, by Leslie Davies
- Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5), by Anthony Powell
- What’s Become of Waring, by Anthony Powell
There was almost a gentleness to knowing the balance of his life had come down to nothing but the words he wrote on a page. Nothing, more or less, save, of course, for the blessedly endless supply of books to read. Such was his love of reading that he knew, in the end, if he was aware of its arrival, a deep ache-sadness at not having read all he’d wanted to read would be present.
Not sad, so much, this truth. So many around him seemingly spinning in place or out of control (held up to the light at the right angle this could indeed be redundant) in their misery. The chase for the material, gullible minds digesting to the point of blind and foolish faith that wealth meant joy and happiness. In short, pipe dreams.
Leaning back in his chair with a cup of tea, a brief and admittedly cursory self-examination led him to conclude he was free of pipe dreams.
No more pipe dreams. Reality for me, he thought.