Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cave Paintings and Words on Pages

Today you are sitting at a large table in a shaded mall, in the midst of many other tables, all filled with books, all manned by men and women who have some devotion to books beyond their interest in them.  You are near Broad Street in San Luis Obispo. Good cheer seems to surround the day much the way an early morning marine layer surrounded you as you drove the hundred miles northward along the101 Highway you've plied much of your life on various errands of pleasure and work.

You are there to talk about your book, to sell copies of it, to answer questions about it, to suggest to complete strangers and some individuals you know or who know of you that your book is a tool that can help them, that will help them in their own writing.

Seeing the broad demographic of ages, cultures, genders, generations strolling the mall, you cannot help be reminded of your days in booths at carnivals up and along the spine of this long-necked state of California and into Nevada, where, for some years, you worked at various booths featuring games of impulse rather than actual chance. These games were made to seem easy but in fact were no such thing.  Your earnings were twenty-five percent of the money you brought in.  If you "blew" or lost too much stock, for which term read stuffed teddy bears, stuffed dogs, and the like, you were likely to be fired, unless the "stock" you lost earned out against your gross take.

There were and are some undeniable comparisons between what you did when you worked for carnivals and what you do as an author.  You represent in both cases  the fantasy of the possible.  Not everyone who reads your book will learn from it, much less publish, although the driving spirit that undershot your composition of this six hundred-twenty-six-page book was to convey your particular fantasies about reading, writing, and overall focus.

You went out of your way to invest it with more stuffing than the stuffed dogs and teddy bears of your carnival days.  You spoke of it with hope, affection, and that remarkable thing that has come to you over the years of laboring to be of any account as a writer, the desire to send a message.  There is much to be cynical about on the carnival midway; cynicism of equal measure in the publishing world.

You thought as well today about the remarkable animals painted  on the walls of caves and caverns throughout the world, places the original artist knew well in advance would not be widely visited.  Why were they at such pains to represent such remarkable animals, as though erupting from the  stone?  Your guess is because they felt some close sense of connection to these animals, that these drawings were a part of some larger ritual of communication.

You looked today at the books of others as well as your own new book and for a moment, you understood why you were at pains to represent words and sentences and paragraphs and ideas as though you had joined with them in some larger ritual.

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