As a child I loved but two things sincerely and completely: Cats and books.
Lately I’ve been revisiting my youth as it pertains to the literature I enjoyed as a young girl. Writers such as Updike, the Bronte sisters, H.G. Wells, Plath, Maugham, Dickens and Hemingway all inspired me to continue scaling the insurmountable hill of creative realization.
When I was a kid, we had exactly three television channels from which to choose. There were no video games the cinema was infrequent and popular music had yet to make the leap to television beyond the variety show format. That left only one glorious place for entertainment: the library.
I received my very first library card when I was ten and I’ve continued to be the proud owner of one ever since. When I was twelve I would roam into the adult fiction section. Overwhelmed by the variety and number of books, I would choose a letter, close my eyes and point. Whatever book I selected in this way, I would borrow and read. Occasionally I encountered some duds, but by and large it introduced me to writers I may never had read. In retrospect I had no idea I was filling my head with the words and self expression that would one day aid me in developing my own creative muscle. In particular, Ernest Hemingway had a demonstrable effect on how I develop characters and their emotional impact on the story. There was something in the way his stories expanded gradually that captivated me. They were like a balloon being filled with air, slowly, until every page was a feeling, either physically or emotionally. I especially loved his talent for leaving you full and round with the immensity of his truth until the final sentence. His dialogue was impeccable and exact.
I went to the library yesterday, hungry for something that would remind me why I’m writing. I perused the shelves and frustrated by my own familiar library indecisiveness, I employed the old eeny meeny miny moe technique. I closed my eyes and pointed and wonder of wonders, I chose Hemingway.
‘True At First Light’ was an unfinished manuscript chronicling Hemingway’s African exploits and as with all things Ernest, more fact than fiction resides between the pages. I needed to read this book right at this time. Not only because I relinquished an important opportunity recently, but because I’m parched and dry with no clearly defined reason to continue with a work of fiction I initially adored. It’s been languishing for far too long although I’ve been taking a poke or two at it daily. I want more than a drop of inspiration to carry me from point A to Point B, I require a torrent. The story has got to be jarring and clean, unrepentant in it’s honesty with a modicum of humour to give it some spice and sass. This work in progress has become my definer. Three chapters in, all characters present and accounted for and me limp as an overcooked noodle wondering where my urgency went.
I will read my old friend Ernest and perhaps that great gulf between myself and this book will be minimized by the verbal gold of an old master who loved but three things sincerely and completely: hunting, fishing and writing.