I’m so excited to introduce our first guest blogger. Please welcome Matthew Gibson.
Matthew and I went to the University of North Alabama together. He’s a recent grad (in fact, he was sitting directly in front of me at graduation this December). He’s fun to talk to and he’s a great writer. He’s been published in Lights & Shadows, UNA’s literary magazine. He majored in English with a concentration in professional writing, but has side interests in film and astronomy.
Now, I’m going to step aside and let Matthew do his thing. Enjoy!
My Book, Dream Catalyst
I have a small library tucked away in a dusty corner of a desolate room in which the entirety of my literary collection resides. There are books from doctors, physicists, novelists and criminals. Philosophers, sages, fortune-tellers and paranormal fanatics. My collection is, by no means, a complete one. But it’s my collection and when I look at it, I see the past 16 years of my life scribed on printing-press paper. I look at one book and I remember cozying up by a kerosene heater while snow pelts the window panes and ghosts knock about in the attic. I look at another and I can remember the feeling of being a boy on a bicycle, pedaling down a dirt road, skidding to a stop in the middle of a grassy field with a paperback in my jacket pocket.
My library is a dream-haunt, where all the things I wanted to be and all the things I’ve become converge. It’s a continuum of memory and a chaos of emotion. Like a tide, it erodes away the raw material and sculpts beauty from the basalt. It astonishes me how clearly I can see the points in my life from a glance at a title. A creak of a book spine is all it takes to make me reel. I can run my fingers over the dust jacket of an old book and I’m lost in a precession of years that give me the sensation that I’m all at once drowning and falling, burning and healing, weary and at rest. I’ve passed this way before, I think, and a book becomes a place for me, somewhere that I stopped at once upon a time on a road that I used to walk. It’s a home that I had for a little while and then forgot about.
Sometimes—not all the time, mind you—but sometimes I’ll find a note tucked inside the pages, pressed and creased so neatly and nestled so deeply in the spine that it’s almost unnoticeable. And the note might read something trivial like MATH HOMEWORK-P.626. But every once in a while, I will come across a scrap of paper with words written on it so poignant, it feels as though a part of my past self is reaching across the temporal gulf and handing me the note in person. Don’t forget how much you love this paragraph. Or, This is how your writing ought to be. Nothing that would matter to anyone but me. But still, it matters. I’m no Wellian Time Traveler—alas, I have yet to build my Time Machine—but still, whenever I peruse the pages of the books that I own, I feel like I’ve taken a journey to a place that’s not here, and that’s not now. It’s not the past-not really. It kind of wavers between now and never-was. It’s hard to hold onto, and once I’ve got it, I want to stay there. I can’t prove that it ever existed, but I know it once did. It’s at the heart of what’s me, and I suppose that’s where it’ll stay. It’ll die when I’m gone and the words I’ve written so that I remember fall away. The body of my life will be laid to rest in an empty field, where a little boy once sat with a paperback in his lap, leaning against his bicycle and reading in the shade of an old oak tree, storing up the magic for his imagination.
So keep the books and hold fast to the pages. Read so much so that if you were to lose your library, you’d lose yourselves. If the pages vanished tomorrow, you’d be reduced to ruins. That’s how important it is for writers to read. It’s not just about getting your own word out there, but living your whole life through words. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that apt writers are avid readers. And if there was one thing I could go back and tell myself it’d be to read even more that what I’ve read. A hunger for reading isn’t just wanting to read. It’s having read a lot and wanting to read even more. Real writers read books. Fake ones consider having read Hemingway in their high school English class to be sufficient. So keep reading those books, you groovy, real writers. Those beautiful, handsome books where we keep all our secrets and through which our hearts can be known.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Thank you, Matthew, for sharing that with us.
You can respond to Matthew in the comments section below.
Would you like to write a guest post? You may pitch your idea here.