Sunday, August 21, 2022

Beneath the ice

Monet-The Break-up of the Ice
      I want you to think of the book you're reading right now as a river, frozen in the night. You can read everything on the surface of the river. That means all the craft
which were yesterday busily plying the river, which have now come to a halt, frozen in place. It means fallen branches and other riverside detritus, partly submerged in the ice. Most important it means the general shape of the river, sinuous and taut at the same time, easily followed and anticipated, at least until the river bends out of sight.

     Perhaps you can spot adventurers on the ice, those familiar enough with its depth to risk ice-fishing or skating along, carving out their initials with the blades of their skates.. It's not for everyone, but watching them explore can help you understand the river better.     

     You can also see something peculiar to you, which is your own reflection, your surroundings, your sky, yourself. You are part of the river, a vital part. You bring your positioning, your angle, your history, without which the river is not complete.

     Here's what you rarely glimpse, though, unless you happen to be a writer, versed in a special way of seeing the river of the book. What we see is the the river beneath the ice, still alive, still flowing, still breathing, still teeming with all the aquatic life. We see words not chosen, passages scrubbed, streams converging and parting, rising and falling. We can't see them crystal-clear, of course, but we are always conscious of the book as a living, ever-changing, ever-busy thing, and we understand how mud or sand or rock in the river-bed fashions the entire river, how the entire-eco-system blends.

    For the writer, a book is never a finished thing, it's always wriggling in the hand. Is there another way to accomplish this attitude? I can't answer that question yea or nay. I'm not even sure it's useful to the reader, no matter how dedicated. But one thing I'd like you to keep in mind: the book is ALIVE.

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