Archive for July 20th, 2009

The Magic

Reading bookYou pick up a book and it is just paper and ink.  Nothing special, right?  Wrong.  A book can take you anywhere in the world in seconds.  A well written book can transform your life.  It can make you believe you have been there and done that.  I love a book that you have to stop and think about.  Was I there, did I do that or did I read about it somewhere?  There have been books whose movies I have sworn to have seen only to find out a movie was never made.  It was just written so beautifully and so vividly that it took me to Ireland or Italy or the Savannahs of Africa or it painted characters so real I could smell their perfume or hear the lilt of their voices.

Frank McCourt did that.  As I read Angela’s Ashes, I sat in his kitchen listening to his younger brother die, hearing his mother’s sobs.  I smelt the ale on his father’s breath and wanted to wipe the ring of condensation left by the pint from his brother’s casket.  I laughed so hard I cried when his grandmother sent him to confess about throwing up the Body of Christ.  And I cried for his mother as he climbed on the ship bound for America not knowing whether he would ever see her again.

Frank McCourt died over the weekend and I cried.  I cried not because I knew him or because I felt he went too early but because his talent died with him.  Because I know there were stories he still had to write, stories I would still like to hear.

As a writer, there are times I read a book that brings me to tears, not with its story but because it is so beautiful.  Because I know there is no way I will ever write as well.  There are people who put pen to paper and create a world that is so real we can touch it and taste it.  Books that have me rushing home to read so I can make sure the characters are okay.  I laughed at a friend who was reading a book and found herself praying for the character at the end of the night, only later remembering she was a character.  I laughed, but I have been there.  I know how real a character can be.

In Stephen King’s Misery, the main character’s foot is chopped off.  I read this while riding a city bus, the build up left little doubt as to what was coming but I still jumped in reaction to it happening.  The person across from me laughed, asking how I could be startled by something happening in a book.  Twenty years later I still can not explain that, other than to say, some writers have a magic to them.

I hear stories of people who want to write the next great American novel.  I wonder whether there are people who believe they will be that person.  I write because I love to, because I feel like I have to spill these words onto the paper or my head might explode from the pressure of so many words, but I don’t write to be the next great author.  In my wildest dreams I can not imagine having the talent it takes to transport someone to another era, another country or another life.  I love those who can and I hope there is someone out there who will take up the cross that Frank McCourt carried for his readers.  Someone who has the stories to tell or the characters to bring to life.  Someone who has the magic.


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