Felix Mendelsson, Song Without Words
Whenever I reread one of my blog posts and think, “Well, that’s not too bad.”, I take out any Ann Patchett book and remember my place at the bottom tier in the pyramid of writers. In the prologue of her collection of short stories, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” she writes: “Part of what I love about writing novels and having dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive. It isn’t their responsibility to figure out where the rent is coming from.” Now I could never think of that.
Or Ann Patchett on the difficulties independent bookstores face doing business in the modern Amazon world: “Mom-and-pop operations issue a mouselike cry trying to hold back the big-box chains, and then are devoured in a single bite.”
Or Michael Ondaatje’s, about a boy’s misadventures aboard a ship in “The Cats Tale”: “The three of us bursting all over the place like freed mercury.”
Or Marcel Proust in a letter to his wife: “So we don’t believe that life is beautiful because we don’t recall it but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell we are suddenly intoxicated and similarly we think we no longer love the dead because we don’t remember them but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.”
Or Annie Dillard in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” …The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”
These writers are part of the 1%—they are the Michael Jordans, Yo Yo Mas, and Dale Chihulies of the written world. Incidental bloggers, weekend golfers, YMCA ball players, and amateur musicians understand how difficult it is to play with the regulars much less compete with the stars.
How can it be then, that libraries are filled with books complete with plot, fully developed characters, consistent editing, and compelling content? How are so many people able to produce a tangible, coherent object that readers are willing to pick up, concentrate on, and invest in? My mind is boggled.
I loved to read when I was young. After I received my allowance on Saturday, I would head for the library, stop at the dime store for peppermint gum drops, and head to my room for a good long session with a book: Nancy Drew was my favorite. At nine, I tried to write a mystery, but soon realized that I was checking back in on “The Secret of the Old Clock” far too often for my attempt to be considered original.