On Loving Words
I have hated the words and loved them and I hope I have made them right – The Book Thief
If you are one of the handful of readers who stop by here now and again, you know that Older Eyes is a lover of words. Perhaps handful of readers sounds like a lament or even a complaint … and anyone who’s ever put words to a page would call me a liar if I denied a wish for more readers … but I bring it up today as evidence. A man doesn’t write nearly a million words in four years for a small audience unless he truly loves the way it feels as the words flow from imagination to fingertips to page. Lately, however, although the words still flow, they require more effort and bring less joy. They feel emptier, even though, to this reader, they still read well.
It’s the day after Christmas. Last night, I stayed up until almost two am to finish Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief. Twenty, even ten, years ago I’d have made it to the end but this sixty-nine year old body isn’t what it used to be, so I finished it over breakfast today. I’d seen the film by director, Brian Percival, with Muri and I’m always touched by stories about words and writing. And hearing the narration of the film, by Death, no less, I knew that I had to read the book to experience the words firsthand. It was a fast read but not an easy read. How can a story of perhaps the worst era in human history be easy? My eyes were wet through the last chapter as Death carried off the story’s characters, one by one, and I certainly cried with Leisel as she discovered the bodies of her parents and her beloved Rudy in the bombed out streets of Molching. But I also cried for the inspiration Liesel’s words brought to every one around her amidst the horror and Liesel’s love of the words she wrote to tell her story.
A casualty of my writing … of my blogging … has been my reading. Christopher Moore’s Sacre Bleu has languished half-read on my Kindle for months. Yes, it has been a disappointment, but I’ve waded my way through disappointments before for the love of words. That’s how love works. Friends have handed me books they recommend and they accumulate in a pile on my office table, whispering quietly … Read me. Love me. Instead, I sit at the keyboard looking for inspiration with a club (which Jack London assures me a I need to do sometimes) or rewatch favorite films on TV. Leisel may be a fictional character but she’s reminded me that writing is borne of love and that love isn’t always stars and sunlight. It bares the soul in ways that sometimes hurt. And love is a two-way deal, it’s give and take. If I want to write, I need to read. In his inspiring book, On Writing, Stephen King told me that I needed to set aside time to write if I want to be a writer. I’ve done that. But he also said a writer needs to read. He’s right, of course. So, with New Years Day approaching, my first New Years Resolution is to get back to reading the words I love as well as writing them. Why is it that sometimes doing what we love takes discipline? Am I just an odd fellow? Or are we an odd species?