Despite being tired today, I’ve realized that I’ve lost something profound which may play a part in the tepid reception of Man and Brother: I wasn’t transported fully into this book when I drafted it.
That . . . is not good news.
Not good news at all for the future of my noveling career.
Not good news for a person who spent her childhood traveling somewhere or another through the power of books.
Not good news at all.
Even before I could read, I readily lost myself in picture books. Ones with detailed scenes could carry me into that writer’s world and kept me there. If the Where’s Waldo? series had been out when I was a child? I would have spent hours upon hours mentally inside the pictures hangin’ with Waldo and playing out interactions with the people, places, and things in those pictures.
Once I was given the power to unlock the written word, I regularly was transported (if the book was good) into a novelist’s world. I would experience it fully through a set of ghostly five senses, and I would feel.
Each novel was a grimoire, once upon a time, casting its magic all around me until I was transported. It was not just being transfixed. I transcended time and space when I read, touching the divine in a full-immersion journey which went from print straight to pure imagination.
It’s dim, now.
When I read, I see the novel’s world through a darkened mirror. I feel like an observer when I’m not chasing down errors. (Damn my inner proofreader!) That really sucks.
As a child, I absorbed sensations from the world around me. I remember lying in tall, wild grass looking up at the summer sky. The meter-tall grass had firm shafts and long narrow leaves with dense ridges. The leaves were sharp-edged, sometimes stinging as they slid across my arm, leg, and finger skin. Smooth if rubbed in one direction and bitterly rough if stroked in another, the leaves of these tail-topped stalks varied from vivid emerald to yellow green. Perched above my head, pale green fox tails with green sticks poking out at angles aimed carelessly toward the bluer-than-blue sky. Sometimes the toppers drooped, giving those particular skinny reeds sleepy or melancholic qualities.
The air was chilled and clear and clean near the ground. A living sweetness perfumed where I lay and looked beyond the myriad greens to a vivid turquoise sky. The cool, moist dirt smelled like dark brown looked–a specter of chocolate’s richness combined with the solid and heavy scent of clay.
Birds chirruped or chattered notes of songs only they knew; insects, some loud and some quiet, meandered even as their wings buzzed manically. Shushing breezes swayed the stalks and made the green fluff-and-spike heads bob and nod.
Laughter and talking voices sometimes broke that immersion, but it didn’t break the spell. It was part of the world, a comforting sense that I wouldn’t be alone once I left the grass and returned to the mundane world of white linoleum in a pebble pattern, blue-tiled countertops which were a pale imitation of the sky blue I’d just been obsessed by, and shag carpeting the color of curry powder. Well, where no animal or spilled wine glass stained them. Yet each stain had its own soundtrack: the shushing spray of canned carpet cleaner, the scrub of wet cloth and paper towel, and my mother’s muttered words and nearly tangible cloud-like sighs–loaded down by desperation or irritation or both.
So having experienced a fully alive and immersive world, and having been able to carry all of that with me as I tucked myself between the covers of paperback after paperback, reveling in the sheets which held these waking dreams . . . why am I so removed from it now?
Did I stop trusting in the magic inherent in fiction? Did I get so weighted down by everyday expectations that I tethered myself to the Earth–an entire world dragged behind the chain clamped and locked to my ankle?
Well, I have much to contemplate . . . particularly that I think I may have drawn an immersive scene from my own childhood. But it wasn’t . . . it wasn’t fully clear when I traveled there to describe it. It was like a sinister shadow stood between me and those memories.
Am I a recovered daydreamer? Have I become just another grown-up?
Oh, I hope not.