Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Book Will Save Your Life

I woke up this morning with the Pointer Sisters in my head. Now, I like the Pointer Sisters, to a point, but it’s been about four straight hours of “I’m So Excited” looping through my brain, and I am becoming weary of it.

I do not know why the Pointer Worm invaded my virtual ear. I woke up, and it was there, broadcasting tinnily, sounding remarkably like a monaural nine transistor pocket radio circa 1963. Why this song? Why now? Had I heard the song recently? Not to the best of my recollection. Had I encountered the words “I’m so excited” in some other context? I don’t think so. Was I excited? Am I excited?

Well, yes, I am excited, but not in a frenetic hot-to-trot Pointer Sisters sort of way. I have never been that excited. My excitement is more of the slow burn, rising tide, tight-chested variety. It is the familiar sort of excitement that comes with the approaching publication of a new book.*

Because every new book I write is the book that will save me.

It’s a writer thing that writers don’t often talk about, not even to each other. You see, we are all drowning, and that is the reason we keep writing, because every new book is the book that will float us above and away from (choose three) irrelevance, mediocrity, madness, obscurity, obloquy, ourselves.

And so, I blame the Pointer Sisters earworm on the fact that I have a new book coming out in a few months.

Several years ago I read a novel called This Book Will Save Your Life, by A.M. Homes. I picked it up in part because I’d recently heard an interview with Homes, and I liked what she said. Mostly, though, I was attracted by the title. I enjoyed the book—it’s a funny, smart, magical-realistic tale about a lonely, dissociated man who discovers that he is not alone. I would recommend it to some people. But—and this is not a bad thing—the title is the best part.

Why do I write? Why write when there are so many other things I could be doing with my one and only life? Why not become a savior, a saint, a martyr? Why not make a ton of money and surround myself with luxury? Why not raise a litter of children and propagate my DNA? Why not watch TV and drink beer all day? Why not stop breathing and maybe find out that I’m wrong about what happens next?

I write because the next book is always the book that will save my life. The book that will make sense of all that I have experienced. It is a rocket, a flare, a smoke signal, a howl. “Howl” is another great book title. “Call me Ishmael” is a great first line. “Only connect” is a great epigraph.

As I was writing this, my “I’m So Excited” earworm morphed into “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” by Daft Punk. Still the tinny 1960s era transistor radio playing through a single earphone. Same difference, I say.


Daughter Number Three said...

Love this. Thanks.

Kurtis said...

“I would exchange all that I have written for the next thing.”
― William Stafford