All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.

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Teaser Tuesday (October 08)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

Widdershins
by Charles de Lint

Widdershins

◊~~~◊~~~◊

So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


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Teaser Tuesday (September 17)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along with Teaser Tuesdays! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• Be careful not to include spoilers!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

◊~~~◊~~~◊

Moonheart
by Charles de Lint

moonheart

◊~~~◊~~~◊

So, what’s everyone else reading at the moment? Go on, give us a tease…


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Charles de Lint, Writer of My Heart

“We’re all made of stories. When they finally put us underground, the stories are what will go on. Not forever, perhaps, but for a time. It’s a kind of immortality, I suppose, bounded by limits, it’s true, but then so’s everything.”

Over the last three weeks I’ve been highlighting the three authors who fill my heart with joy. Beginning with Roald Dahl, whom I was introduced to in my childhood, I moved onto George Mackay Brown, a poet whose words filled my backpacking years with wonder. Today, we have one of the founding figures (alongside Terri Windling and John Crowley) of my favourite genre: urban fantasy.

It was Deborah who introduced me to the world of wonder and magic that is Charles de Lint. During one of our many late night hostel conversations his name was dropped as an author I should look out for, and given our similar tastes, look out for him I did.

Late one afternoon I popped into a charity shop in Inverness and happened upon a copy of Memory and Dream for fifty pence. From the very beginning I was hooked, and have been ever since. For years I trawled second-hand bookstores, eBay and charity shops as I worked toward building a complete collection of his bibliography – and if it weren’t for the breakdown, I would have succeeded.

This event cost me this collection, along with everything else, but his words have remained in my soul ever since.

So today I present to you the magic of Charles de Lint; my favourite author of all time.


~ 8 ~
The Little Country

For some reason it took me months to read this book after picking it up in a second-hand bookstore in Flinders Street. A stand alone novel taking place in Cornwall and – along with several other de Lint books – starring a female character (Janey Little) that I fell head over heels for. I went into this book blind (there was no blurb on my copy) and, after a slow start, grew to absolutely cherish and adore the story, which combines two of my favourite things in the world; books and folk music.

“Why did men worship in churches, locking themselves away in the dark, when the world lay beyond its doors in all its real glory?”

~ 7 ~
The Onion Girl

One of the few de Lint books I love/hate in equal measure (and anyone who knows me, knows how much I cherish this reaction). For the first time de Lint told Jilly Copporcorn’s story – a character who had flitted in and out of almost all the Newford novels written to this point. A story involving child abuse, recovery, art, dreaming and the past coming back to haunt us.

Although filled with interesting ideas and beautiful imagery, there was something about this book that rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve read it four times now and each time the reaction is the same. No matter how much I love it (for Jilly is one of the great Newford characters) there is something off that I’ve never been able to put my finger on. Perhaps one day I will.

But don’t let my love/hate relationship with this book put you off. As with all de Lint, it is a magical read full of beautiful characters, interesting ideas and magical description.

“People who’ve never read fairy tales, the professor said, have a harder time coping in life than the people who have. They don’t have access to all the lessons that can be learned from the journeys through the dark woods and the kindness of strangers treated decently, the knowledge that can be gained from the company and example of Donkeyskins and cats wearing boots and steadfast tin soldiers. I’m not talking about in-your-face lessons, but more subtle ones. The kind that seep up from your subconscious and give you moral and humane structures for your life. That teach you how to prevail, and trust. And maybe even love.”

~ 6 ~
Someplace to be Flying

As with all de Lint books this is about the people and their strengths, rather than the underlying magic of the fantasy world the author has created. Combining crow girls, photojournalists, Animal People, imminent danger and an awkward romance this was the last de Lint book that I read, a few weeks before I became homeless in 2009.

“When we understand each other’s stories, we understand everything a little better–even ourselves.”

~ 5 ~
Widdershins

November 2006, my 28th birthday.

Wrapped in shiny paper and carried across the world by my parents was a first edition hardback copy of, at the time, de Lint’s most recent work. It was birthday present from my brother (thank you) and I guarded it with my life until the great sell off of Addy’s possessions, when it became resident of the Grub Street bookstore in Melbourne.

Widdershins is (allegedly) the last book to feature Newford regular Jilly Copporcorn in a central role. Following on from the events of The Onion Girl (so best read that first) it continues the story of Jilly & Geordie and throws in a potential war between Fairies and Cousins to boot. In all honesty, it is a spectacular piece of writing :)

“What do they say about meeting a bear in the woods? Oh right, you shouldn’t. And to make sure you don’t, you should make a lot of noise so that they will know where you are and keep their distance because, supposedly, they’re as nervous of us as we are of them. Which is all goo, except this bear doesn’t seem the least bit nervous. He’s giving me a look like I’m Goldilocks, ate his porridge, broke his chair, slept in his bed, and now it’s payback time.”

~ 4 ~
Moonheart

After lending this book to my would-be-abuser her only comments upon finishing it were:

(1) It was okay, though I preferred reading The Da Vinci Code (a book she knew I hated with a passion)

and

(2) So this is who you stole the phrase ‘home is where the heart is’ from. I knew you didn’t come up with it by yourself.

After reading one of the founding books of the urban fantasy genre all she could do was use it to attack me (seriously, isn’t ‘home is where the heart is’ one of the most famous quotes ever? How could anyone think I came up with it myself?) and then compare it to one of the most annoying books ever written.

For those who have never read Moonheart I heartily recommend you do. Set in Ottawa during the 1980s it combines antique stores, houses the size of city blocks, wizards, evil forces and a magnificent bikie names Blue. Full of love, mystery, action, and magic, this book has all the makings of modern fantasy that Charles de Lint is so well-known for; in fact, it would be the book I would recommend as an introduction to de Lint’s world.

Remember the quiet wonders. The world has more need of them than it has for warriors.”

~ 3 ~
Forest of the Heart

One of my favourite times to go shopping in Melbourne was Cup Day. On the first Tuesday of November the entire population of Melbourne crams into the Flemington Racecourse to watch some horses run around a semi-circle. Well, almost the entire population of Melbourne, for shops remain open and thus need to be staffed – so I, driven by social anxiety, can shop in absolute empty bliss.

In 2003, I did just this. I purchased some CDs from JB Hi-Fi, a couple of T-Shirts from Myer and a pair of shoes from Colorado. After buying my girlfriend a present (some boots) I perused Dymocks bookstore and happened upon a brand spanking new de Lint book that I had yet to read: Forest of the Heart.

Combining elements of the Green Man folklore this tightly plotted story may come apart slightly in the last act but I literally fell head over heels in love with one of the female characters that I fear I may never meet anyone so awesome in real life. Some people compare their dates to rom-com actors and Sex in the City one night stands, I compare them to de Lint’s female characters!

“But, even those of us with less extraordinary origins – aren’t we all pieces of those who came before us? We carry the bloodlines of our ancestors and we form our beliefs from what we learn from others as much as from what we experience ourselves. What is important is who we become – despite our origins as much as because of them.”

~ 2 ~
Tapping the Dream Tree

One of the finest short story collections of the 21st century. I cherish almost every syllable of this collection so much that it pains me to not have it at my fingertips. I adore the cover art. I adore the characters. I adore everything about this book. Urban fantasy at its best.

“We end up stumbling our way through the forest, never seeing all the unexpected and wonderful possibilities and potentials because we’re looking for the idea of a tree, instead of appreciating the actual trees in front of us.”

~ 1 ~
Memory and Dream

What can I say about this book that I haven’t already said? I’ve written about it here, and here, and so many times over the last five years that if I were to link to them all I’d be here night clearing the pingbacks from my notifications.

First read in 2001, and on countless times over the last eleven years I couldn’t even estimate a number. This is the benchmark I measure every urban fantasy book I read. It was a major inspiration – along with de Lint’s work in general – for the novel I had begun to plan and whenever any friend asked me to recommend them a de Lint I would never give them this one, because if they hadn’t liked it, our friendship would have ended instantaneously amidst the grandest literary centered argument Australia would ever have seen.

These days, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

“I finally figured out that I’m solitary by nature, but at the same time I know so many people; so many people think they own a piece of me. They shift and move under my skin, like a parade of memories that simply won’t go away. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how alone–I always have such a crowded head.”

~ All quotes © Charles de Lint ~

Previous posts in this series:

Roald Dahl, Champion of the World
George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic

Other posts you may enjoy:

My Life in Books
My Five Favourite Books of All Time


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Saturday 9: Life is a lemon and I want my money back

Saturday 9 is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Crazy Sam Winters (she added the crazy, not me!).

Every Saturday there will be nine questions – sometimes they will be around a common theme, other times completely random – to be answered however we like. I’m a little later than usual today because of my fluctuating moods but at least it’s still Saturday :)

English: Kate Miller-Heidke at the Byron Bay B...

Kate Miller-Heidke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. When was the last time that you asked for your money back?

This is something that I rarely – if ever – do. The only thing that is coming to mind is that in May 2012 I saved up over a number of weeks to buy my dad the new Kate Miller-Heidke album for his birthday. Due to my lack of funds it took me longer to organise than I’d intended and I was unable to send the package until after his birthday. When I spoke to him that day I discovered he had brought the album as a present for himself so I took my copy back and exchanged it for something else. So, not technically getting my money back, but close.

2. What was the last thing that you did to help someone?

Approximately seven hours ago I was moseying down the road when I saw an elderly woman drop her bag and spilled her groceries down the street. I, and two other samaritans, helped her collect everything together. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours talking to a woman suffering from depression online. The day before that, I spent an hour talking to a homeless man who looked lonely, what can I say, I related to him.

Basically, I try to help at least one person a day, if I’m mentally able, in whatever way I can.

3. At what point of your life do you think you started to understand who you are?

Late 2006/early 2007, just before the breakdown, I thought I had a good understanding of who I was, why I was here and what my purpose was. After the last five years, I know exactly who I am, I just don’t like him.

4. Are there times when you thought you had taken a fall, only to discover more about yourself?

Although I always knew I had a tremendous amount of inner strength, the period I’ve been homeless, in combination with everything I’ve been through, has taught me a lot about what this strength is as well as help me understand far more about myself than I could have imagined.

The period I spent homeless I learned/re-learned several life lessons that most people spend their whole lives not fully understanding.

5. What was the last thing you did where you could not believe in what you were doing?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a comment for a website that I still cannot believe I posted. I’m rather proud that I did, and in no way am I ashamed of the information I relayed, but due to the intimate nature of this information I couldn’t believe I was even considering posting it – let alone hitting the post comment button!

6. Do you think that you must struggle to become strong?

Yes. Absolutely. We learn from our mistakes, from our failures, from the trials that life thrusts upon us unannounced. If we were to go through life feeling no pain, remaining unchallenged from birth to death, we would never discover what we’re capable of.

(Un)Fortunately, I have.

7. Do you feel that your dreams have meaning or are entirely random?

If by dreams you mean the phantasms that visit us in our sleep, then yes, I do believe they mean something. Several elements of the last dream I had had particular resonance to various parts of my life and I can see the connections and messages my subconscious was trying to impart.

If by dreams you mean our goals and aspirations, they always have meaning for nothing we do is ever random.

8. What was the last promise you broke?

I promised to be there for a friend. And I’ve never forgiven myself for letting them down. I never will.

9. Do you collect anything?

I used to collect several things; Charles de Lint novels, books about Scotland (particularly older books), badges, key rings and DVDs.

Now, I have neither the money nor housing security to collect anything. Any day I could end up on the streets, something that does not lend itself to keeping a collection. Although, I do have two small collections I manage to keep a hold of, both of which are personal.

 


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Booker Award: My top five books of all time!

Even though I’ve been too dragged down by the whirlpool of depression to post recently, I was nominated for a blogging award by Heather of the wonderful blog BitsnBooks.

This made me smile – who wouldn’t if they won an award – so a hearty thank you :)

The rules of this award are simple:

1.  Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion.  Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2.  Post the Booker Award picture.

3.  Share your top 5 books of all time

As I wrote in my previous post, I am a little incoherent at the moment, but I’ll do my best. Despite this incoherency, I do know that my top five books haven’t changed since 2009. In fact, three of them have been in the list for over a decade – one, for twice that time!

Enjoy, and if you haven’t read them, perhaps you should. Maybe you’ll love them as much as I do.

My Top 5 Books of All Time


1. Quest for a Kelpie (Frances Hendry)

“I sat, and listened, and smiled, and said little, and thought my own thoughts. It could just be an old woman’s fancy that the men seemed pompous and weak, the boys stupid and thoughtless, and the women vain, shrill and useless, in comparison with the folk of my youth; but I think not. Perhaps it is simply that they have never known, any of them, real hardship, which makes folk mature,”

When I was eight I played the recorder as part of my school’s recorder troupe. What few realized was that my decision to be part of this group had little to do with my love of this magnificent wind instrument and more to do with the fact I was the only boy in the group; and a ratio of eight girls to one boy is pretty awesome :p

In addition to using the recorder to entice beautiful girls with my cheeky magnetism I was also interested in books; Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and the Beano being my authors of choice. One afternoon my teacher, Miss Atkinson, began reading us a novel with a rather odd title. I had no idea what a Kelpie was and a quest was something Knights embarked on, not nine-year old lasses from fishing villages.

Over the course of the several days Miss Atkinson read this book to us, I became so enchanted by the writing, characters and period that I did not want it to end. But, as with all books, it did. So, I took my recorder clad self to the local library and borrowed the book so I could relive the adventure in my own time. I read it in my bedroom. I read it in on the Moss. I read it in my Aunt’s house. I read it so many times I memorized the book so that when I, finally, returned it to the library I was able to recall it whenever I desired.

When I was eighteen I ran away from home. It had been ten years since I’d read Quest for a Kelpie but my love of the book had never left my mind. One morning, after a particularly strange night in Stirling, I was browsing a charity shop whilst waiting for a train to Edinburgh. Sitting in the middle of a shelf was a small paperback copy of this much-loved childhood tome and all they were asking for it was a measly 50 pence.

The short train ride to Edinburgh was spent lost in the world I had loved so much growing up. As soon as I arrived in Edinburgh, I sat in the Princes Street gardens and finished the book before immediately starting it again that night.

This dog-eared, much read copy remained in my position for over ten years. Everywhere I went – Scotland, Belgium, Canada, emigrating to Australia – I made sure it came with me. Whenever depression took hold I would throw myself back into it to remind myself of the cheeky recorder player (pun intended) I once was.

2. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”

I first read this book in October 2009. After months of being homeless I had lost all hope of having a future and my mind was skipping around the edges of the abyss.

I read it in one sitting under a street lamp in the Kings Domain, interrupted only once by an old man out on a walk who seemed taken aback that a homeless person was reading a novel rather than shooting up or downing alcohol.

The moment I finished it I knew it should be required reading for everyone. It should be introduced into the school curriculum and studied at length. On one hand a touching account of youth, on the other an important treatise on depression and the indicators of suicidal ideation.

I have never forgotten the above quote, important words we should all live by. Even the most innocuous and random of actions can have devastating consequences on someone’s life.

I should know.

3. Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

“I finally figured out that I’m solitary by nature, but at the same time I know so many people; so many people think they own a piece of me. They shift and move under my skin, like a parade of memories that simply won’t go away. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how alone–I always have such a crowded head.”

Charles De Lint; my favourite author of all time, was introduced to me by a once great friend who has now faded into the mists of time. She told me of him one night over wine and cigarettes in a backpacker hostel and for months I kept a keen eye out for his books in every bookstore I visited.

Eventually, I found a copy of this book in a charity shop in Inverness. Again, a mere fifty pence provided me with a book I have long-held dear to my heart.

De Lint has inspired me more than any other writer in history. The genre he pioneers, Urban Fantasy, is the setting of 80% of my fictional writing and I have read all the work he had published up to 2009.

An event I have never overcome following my breakdown was selling my De Lint collection – years of scouring second-hand book stores and eshops – lost to the mayhem of mental health.

4. The Stornoway Way (Kevin MacNeil)

“I hope she’s having stupendous dreams, maybe of diamond ballgowns and glittering clifftop castles and golden tigresses thundering along naked beaches, and maybe she’s swimming whitely through the sky on a winged horse, surveying her pastel-tranquil world and there are pink roses like innocent kisses in her silken hair and the air all around her wherever she goes is exactly the temperature of a wraparound hug. Bless her. I’m in love.”

I can’t read this book anymore.

It is a trigger.

I read it in the latter months of 2006, as I was preparing to embark on my tertiary education journey, as I was solidifying my plans for the future, as I was feeling more confident and self-assured than I’d ever felt, as I was falling in love with a beautiful kind-hearted woman who turned out to be the sociopathic narcissist whose abuse would be the catalyst for my life’s destruction.

I want to read this book again.

But I can’t.

I think it would tip me over the edge.

Books I love, books I adore, books that enter my top five, I guard with an intensity that is hard to describe. In the months following my breakdown I knew, as with my De Lint collection, that I would end up selling my copy of this book for rent or medical expenses. I couldn’t bear the thought that this novel – which contains some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read – would end its life gathering dust on the shelf of a second-hand book store, so I gave it to a friend as a birthday present.

Where it is now, I have no idea, hopefully as with the other books on this list, it has found a loving home.

5. The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)

“Keep passing the open windows,”

Cars stress me. Buses scare me. Aeroplanes freak me. Trains…trains are another matter entirely. I love trains. I love the sound, the movement, the fact you have an understanding of scale and distance. Throughout my life, there have only been a handful of train journey’s I’ve ever taken that have stressed me out.

  1. A trip from Glasgow to Oban in 1999; the toilet was out-of-order and I desperately needed to go for nearly three hours. VERY uncomfortable.
  2. A trip from Glasgow to Fort William in 2008; a blissful time with Samantha saw my anxiety rising after saying farewell at Queen Street, cue panic attack.
  3. A trip from Edmonton to Toronto in 2000; after a week of pure happiness in the Rocky Mountains I was missing my new friend and wished to be heading west, not east.

What alleviated the frustration of that long trip across the prairies was one of three books I had picked up in a second-hand book shop prior to the journey. I’d read Irving before (the brilliant Owen Meany) but my newly made friend had recommended The Hotel New Hampshire and I always read recommendations from people I respect.

I read it in one day – not surprising, given I was trapped on a train. I re-read it almost immediately. I fell in love with Fran and Lily and Egg. I relished Irving’s prose and witty dialogue and keep passing the open windows became a mantra of sorts.

Like all other books on this list it is not merely a brilliant book, but a book that reminds me of a specific time and place. Of a state of mind that I have never been able to return to.

Quest for a Kelpie; the innocence and excitement of youth.

Thirteen Reasons Why; the faint glimmer of hope amidst a desolate, empty existence.

Memory and Dream; the joy of late night conversations with long ago friends.

The Stornoway Way; embarking on a new chapter of my life.

The Hotel New Hampshire; a period that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to pure happiness.

Today, every library, bookstore or charity shop I visit sees me looking for this book. I find copies of Widow for One Year, Garp, Owen Meany, The Fourth Hand, Cider House…but never this. Not once, in five years, have I found a copy of this book.

One day I will, and when I do, I will smile with pure happiness before opening the cover.

My Nominations

With my depression being as severe as it has been lately it is not just writing blogs that I’ve had trouble with, but reading them also. I feel bad about this, but hope to begin reading my favourite blogs again in good time.

1. The Wrong Road Home

2. Fringewalk

3. Story Treasury

4. Buckwheatsrisk

5. Fish of Gold

6. Writer’s Block

Until next time :)


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017. Darn, your talent and committment make me want to be a greater person

Inspire Me

Inspire Me

Day seventeen of my 365 Day Blogging Challenge has requested I write about the people I idolize.

I’ve been thinking about this question all day. As I walked the chilly streets in a daze of depression I pondered what this word meant to me.

It didn’t take me long to decide that it is not a celebrity that I have the hots for. When I think of the word idol, I never think of cheesy television talent shows or warbling boy bands.

Nor do I think of Higher Powers, although this is by definition what an idol is; an image used in worship; a false God.

When I think of my idols, I think of people who have inspired me, souls that have touched and pushed me toward bigger and better things. Individuals who I look up to and say ‘darn, your talent and committment make me want to be a greater person’.

Once this decision was made, the only thing that popped into my mind were fictional characters. As The Doctor tangoed with Brooke Davis, Chuck Bartowski was summoning the courage to ask Jilly Coppercorn onto the dance floor. But these people are not people. They are figments of several people’s imaginations. Of writers, creators, directors and actors. The lives I have shared have been crafted, shaped and designed to reflect the moral, ethical and metaphorical constructs of the stories they feature in.

So in constructing the list I knew I had to eliminate fictional characters from the mix. The people I truly look to as my inspiration are flesh and blood, not ink and celluloid. The people I consider my idols are:

Mark Schwahn

Mark Schwahn is the creator of the television series One Tree Hill. I have spoken briefly of my love for this show but stopped short of fully explaining why I admire this writer as much as I do.

I will freely admit this television show is not spoken of in the same circles as The Wire, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, nor am I going to argue that it should be. Each exist in different genres, each represent individual visions and alternate audiences. What they all share is an innate skill when it comes to characterisation and originality.

What One Tree Hill lacked in the originality of its premise, it made up for in the uniqueness of its voice. A voice that is quintessentially Mark Schwahn’s.

When I think of individual episodes of this show almost all of them were written by the creator. Immediately the intimacy and power of With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept floods my memory banks, as does the powerful subsequent episode Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them. Of course the season finales are thought of with their (at times) over the top cliffhangers, but episodes such as Pictures of You and To Wish Impossible Things, that focus primarily on character and relationship are perfect examples of television writing.

I admire Mark Schwahn’s ability to create character (I’ve already stated I believe Brooke Davis to be one of the finest fictional female’s I’ve ever come across) as well as the risks he took throughout the show’s nine season run. He is a writer I hold in high esteem and one who rekindled my own passion of this field of the arts. As such, I have no qualms to list him as someone I idolize.

Note
The following video clip from the episode With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept contains a MASSIVE SPOILER for those who have not seen season 3 or beyond. So do not watch if you’re currently viewing, or planning to watch the series. I should add it is also potentially triggering, just to be safe. It is however, a beautiful piece of writing.

Charles De Lint

My favourite writer. A musician, lyricist, folklorist and all round inspirational man. Over the years he has created dozens of characters who flew of the page and into my heart; Jilly Coppercorn, Janey Little, Isabelle Copley and – of course – Blue.

I have long admired his pioneering work in Urban Fantasy and have never hidden how his work served as a source of inspiration toward my own dabbling in this genre.

A beautiful and creative soul that has taught me many things in the realm of writing, folklore and mythology. He also, through his author’s notes, introduced me to the group The Walkabouts, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

The world over people worship footballers, AFL stars, athletes, rugby players and swimmers for their skills in the arena of physical sport. I admire none of them. I do admire this man for so many reasons – all of which are on full display in this video:

George Mackay Brown

Beside the Ocean of Time. Greenvow. Magnus. Vinland. For the Islands I Sing. Hawkfall.

The poetic and literary output of this astonishing writer speaks for itself.

There are few writers who write with such a lyrical, timeless beauty. A skill I can only wish I possessed. My introduction to George Mackay Brown came at a Writer’s Museum in an Edinburgh backstreet. An exhibit that served as the inspiration for me to visit Orkney, and later, read my first of his canon; Beside the Ocean of Time.

Although it didn’t grab me at first, by the time I reached the final chapter I was spellbound. I can recall to this day the tears that trickled my face as I read the words that captured my heart forever.

Of all the writers and poets out there he holds my highest esteem. To be as talented as he is but a dream, but the power in which he infuses his words, will forever be a source of aspiration.

New Child: ECL

i
Wait a while, small voyager
On the shore, with seapinks and shells.

The boat
Will take a few summers to build
That you must make your voyage in.

ii
You will learn the names.
That golden light is ‘sun ~ ‘moon’
The silver light
That grows and dwindles.

And the beautiful small splinters
That wet the stones, ‘rain’.

iii
There is a voyage to make,
A chart to read,
But not yet, not yet.
‘Daisies’ spill from your fingers.
The night daisies are ‘stars’.

iv
The keel is laid, the strakes
Will be set, in time.
A tree is growing
That will be a tall mast.

All about you, meantime
The music of humanity,
The dance of creation
Scored on the chart of the voyage.

v
The stories, legends, poems
Will be woven to make your sail.

You may hear the beautiful tale of Magnus
Who took salt on his lip.
Your good angel
Will be with you on that shore.

vi
Soon, the voyage of EMMA
To Tir-Nan-Og and beyond.

vii
Star of the Sea, shine on her voyage.

GMB © 1996
for Emma Catherine Lawson

FromFollowing a Lark’ (published 1996)

There are others, many so, but for now I feel this will do. I peeked ahead, you see, and shortly within the 365 Day Challenge is a prompt that will allow these real-life individuals to shine.

But their time will come, for now, who are your idols?