dust gathers over the pages exposed on top. the bicycle bookend has a grey sheen over it’s black and silver finish. on top of the teddy a film masks it’s beauty. designed to look aged, it’s grey hairs now make it look eons older than the game of baseball his bat and glove represent.
time given form on top of the knick knacks and the pages that bring the best from me. from the words on the pages, the authors behind those words, or even the shallowness of a beautiful binding and cover. inspiring. somewhere within each of these is a piece of me. something waiting to be uncovered by whoever comes after me.
it’s these things, the favorite things, that are the images. the analogies. the metaphors that give shape to our daily lives. the things that a writer would use to allude and point to in hopes of shaping a character. whether it’s the voice of Hemingway or the fishing he writes about, there’s something in those pages, on the span, deep in the psyche of the author, that captivates me. that nails a passion, or a key inside of me. something about The Old Man and the Sea points to some part of me. can you find it?
they’re all hardcovers, the books that rest in that place of honor, except one. one lone softcover, currently missing because my wife picked it up. she picked it up because a friend pointed to it, and when the wife asked me about it, i said this was the book that started it all. this was the book that took be down a rabbit hole of writing, and into an English degree, and out the other side into a world of publishing and blogging, and so much introspection it cannot be healthy.
in college, the book shamed me. sitting in classes where Shakespeare is heralded lord of the bard, and these old dead masters reign supreme i felt small and silly. my inspiration, my masters, my forbearers were all New York Time Bestsellers, a phrase i fear is incredibly misleading. still, these ones were by heroes. a Dean Koontz. One Stephen King. and the one that started it all Ted Dekker.
i immediately fled from them. my senior year of high school a friend handed me this lost gem, a book i was too young to catch at its peak. In the Lake of the Woods. pure genius. i remember the thrill of those pages and the footnotes and the way reality was distorted until the truth was so subjective i couldn’t find it out. still, within that, there was a mystery that captivated me and when i went back to it in college, it only took hold of me stronger. i read everything Tim O’Brien had to offer. The Things They Carried is the one most recognize, a finalist for a Pulitzer, but my other favorite is the one he won the National Book Award for: Going After Cacciato.
time. reality. truth. things that meant so much to the NYT writers meant nothing to O’Brien and i embraced this with all of me. here was my new hero. i left Koontz, King, and Dekker to the lesser readers.
eventually i took an American Lit class that featured Hemingway and Faulkner. the ones that came so that O’Brien could succeed, and i realized the value of learning, adapting, and taking things further. i learned that you can’t have b without a, and a was pretty darn good. Hemingway stole my heart. it wasn’t the same as O’Brien. Hemingway lacks a poetic nuance that O’Brien has, but boy can the man say a lot without saying anything. as this blog suggests, Hemingway stole my mind.
it wasn’t until my senior year when a prof helped me out off my pedestal. when a prof helped all of us undergrads off our pedestals and shattered our foolish egos. she raved about King and Koontz. she said, they are not frilly writers. they are not puff pieces. they know what they’re doing and they do it well. there is much to learn from these men of the pen. do not be ashamed to read them.
i went back to Dekker. i tried one of his books, hoping nostalgia would carry me through, but it didn’t. the man isn’t as good a writer as my O’Brien, as my Hemingway. he just…isn’t. the words don’t work together. the sentences don’t do enough. the things just happen, and it just isn’t fun to read. the story is there. the story is intriguing. he gets that, but boy could it be so much better!
Dekker has a purpose though. it was a pacifier. a nookie blanket that took me beyond the screen of a gameboy and into the pages of King and Koontz, before ultimately taking me into O’Brien and Hemingway. there is a place in my pantheon for Mr. Dekker, and so he has a place on my desk. the only softcover among the beautiful hardcovers.