Don’t lie. I know a Reader when I see one. You’re the ones who linger over embossed covers, trace the tanned edges of crisp pages with the tips of your fingers, the tip of your mind. It excites you to be in one realm, on the verge of so many others. You all have that look about you: as if the fantasy is this reality, and not the dreamscapes you so longingly look at. I can spot a Reader with my eyes shut.
Take her, for instance.
Her gaze caresses ripening tomes hanging heavy,
wondering which to pick, wandering among
the orchard-shelves. She dances in shattered shade
beneath the trees. Tangy juice and succulent
flesh glisten in the light of a thousand worlds.
Swilling lust-red wine is the same as savouring a
lettered-spine; she deliberates, knowing once she
starts-there’s-no-stopping, because she’s an
alcoholic, her cellar the aisle she paces.
She prises one from the throng and,
turning to the first page, takes a sip.
The words sit — biting — on her tongue,
sharp as cabernet.
Oysters slice careless flesh:
opening it, fingers press along a razorblade
sharp as horizon’s edge, a paper cut soul-deep.
And then there are the Speakers, the ones who love the visceral vibrations of voices. Not to say they dislike the dance of the written word, making patterns in their pupils, but it's clear what their preference is.
“Hey, what if Holden Caulfield
with Anna Karenina,
or Hermione Granger?
Would they love him back?
What about Lyra Silvertongue and
Mr. Rochester? Carroll’s Alice and
Christopher Robin? Or Billy Pilgrim
and Mary Poppins? No, you’re right:
Holden Caulfield isn’t the type to fall
in love, nor is Christopher; and
while Pilgrim travels in time
and Poppins bends space in a bag,
I don’t think they’d make such a good
couple after all. Besides, Lyra’s not fit for
anyone but Will, Rochester anyone
but Jane (even if she does whine a lot).”
“What about Alice?”
“You’re forgetting her story is all about
its trials and confusions and insanity,
its ridiculousness and its magic and its passion:
how is Alice an allegory for anything but love?”
The Listener — every Speaker’s counterpart — is content to fade into the orchestra of life. There’s a musicality to their world, a melody in the thrum of traffic or the wind’s strings moving trees like puppets, a beat in the sizzle of rain or echoing footsteps.
He waits in the car outside,
while she’s inside with the books,
content to be her second love.
There are worse things to love, surely?
He taps the wheel, letting songs sung
by the stereo score his literary soundtrack:
‘Jesse’s Girl’ is his Great Gatsby,
‘Hungry as the Wolf’ his Call of the Wild,
‘Fast Car’ Kerouac,
‘Original Sin’ his Mockingbird and
a dozen songs High Fidelity.
He sees her walking outside,
while he’s inside, floating high.
Yet, sound isn’t always beautiful. It can be chaotic and breathless, achingly and torturously unending. It often is.
The photocopier screams,
“Low-ink — cardiac arrest,”
and the library is a hospital
with people who think
it’s an emergency, but
their job is to care, and as they
rush and fret and rush,
covers creasing while
someone yells, “Code Austen!” and
that girl who’s always in that aisle
leaps into action, thumb
between the pages, helpful smile
on her clock face shifting
all the while, and the sound of students’
pens scribbling on paper distracts
them like a drug, Imagination,
but by the time they rid the urge,
it’s closing time, and silence reigns:
the cliché restored.
You don’t believe me? Draw near. Nearer. Turn your ear to me, and let me whisper to your curiosity, make dreams leap like sparks thrown from fire into inky darkness. Listen to the creaking of my shelves, these arthritic joints. There’s a tale in them. Hear the poetry hidden in the prose of everyday. You can’t? Come closer, tilt your head, listen…
Let me know what you think: any clichés, overused images, clunky lines, overwritten parts, etc. And please be specific! If you want to give a general overview, that's great, but please don't tell me it sucks without telling me why...I'm still learning, and I need all the help I can get! Thanks for reading!
Gosh, I don't know.
I want to love that first one, I really do. But I don't.
I spend a lot of time in libraries. I am that girl. And you just, you missed the heart of it. You missed the delicacy, the way every movement is treasured, every book is a treat.
It's difficult to explain. It feels ... empty.
This time, I went in skeptical - based on nothing but the title. I am always careful with pieces about libraries or books because they lie so very, very close to my heart. Perhaps my heart is a library. In any case, I am careful because so many people write about books, libraries, girls that read and boys who don't read but try to love the girl anyway but very few succeed in telling it the way it feels.
This time, I loved it. This time, I found myself in every line, even though you described different 'types' - of which there are many. This time, you found the heart - it wasn't the girl, it wasn't the boy. It was - is, the books, the shelves, the high vaulted ceiling that presses the mustiness and the ink into a perfume.
You did well. Thank you.
You're most welcome. I'm glad you chose the angle you did. (Some crazy idea that girls that read are untouchable, unreachable, dangerous, beautiful, etc. Most of us aren't. It's a stereotype. I'd far rather meet a guy that reads as avidly as I do.)
Which few lines?
Bookworm is an irritating term. Just because I read, does not mean that I am a worm. However, I do appreciate one aspect of it - worms take a lot of debris and turn it into something wonderfully useful. Readers do this.
Ah, thank you. That is the third time I have received a compliment on my typical conversation today. I appreciate it greatly.
Oh and remember how you promised to give me a dedication in your first novel? Well, I read the Acknowledgements in Looking for Alaska, and John had listed all of these people and for one of them he wrote their name and in brackets "because I promised"
It is written more like an essay rather than poetry in some parts, mainly in the long horizontal lines (in my opinion anyway). It's an attempt at prose poetry yeah?
It is very over written in the first paragraph, the same with the second.
"trace the tanned edges of crisp pages with the tips of your fingers" - couldn't you just put "tracing the tanned page edges with your fingertips"? (I know it isn't perfect, but its just that bit smaller and more concise)
It's very, very dense. Not to mention over-embellished. Less is always more. Cut it down a bit. We have all been to library (I hope), we know what they look like.
I like the intent, but I just get lost in the over zealous pursuit of poetic function.
I think "low ink - cardiac arrest" is very jarring. I don't know why though.
I sometimes feel as is you are just listing things that you know or like.
I don't much care for the structure. Choose one style - full page or half page - you can't have both. Not to mention the
part. Maybe just make it one line?
I like the piece, don't get me wrong. Just a bit flowery.
I think you have an slight obsession with books. Okay, maybe a tad more than slight. Maybe broaden your poetic horizons to something other than writers and books. It just seems so pointless that a writer is writing about books. Almost everything I have read from you is about books lately.
I really do like the piece!
And remember: "Concise! Concise! Concise!"
I think I'm used to my old HSC English teacher who told me to stay concise about everything.
Anyways, you don't want me rambling on about like the blithering idiot I am, so ill shut up now.
As always, your writing is beautiful. For such a softly spoken young man, your writing makes me want to blush. Very nicely done! The only thing that I'm wondering about is word count... but I think you could get away with it here, surely.
I love your work - as always.
What I like about your writing is that I am there. How you write, I can see it, feeling, smell it, etc. It not only stimulates the sense, but is sensual in itself. I dig that shit like you wouldn't believe.
Keep up the good work!!