Creative non fiction

joey c kantor

Tear up your library card

The writer Phillip Roth, arguably one of the finest literary novelists of the past fifty years, recently stated that he no longer reads fiction. A study states that dyslexics make up a high proportion of ceo’s. Steinbeck said that knowledge and wisdom enters us the moment that you close the book. Reading is touted as one of the best things that you can do for yourself, the equivalent of intellectual and emotional exercise.

But what if entering the worlds of others could actually have a harmful effect on you? What if exposing yourself to elegantly structured sentences pointing to fine truths could actually cause you to go blind? I wanted to find out if this could be the case when I recently came to the realization that I didn’t want to read fiction any more, or if not anymore at least for awhile. You know what seemed to happen? I sensed the power of contemplation was coming upon me. All of those words I had sipped, slurped and gobbled seemed gone soon after I read them. Afterwards I couldn’t tell you what I had learned because I don’t read to learn. I read to experience. To translate this learning is another story. I began to resent reading. It all just started to seem like vanity, like here was a lucky author, something. Definitely not with more to say than me just because he or she had been vetted by society. I have written millions of words myself, or at least it feels like it and I still have to bow to the experience and talent of others in order to grow? Well I had had enough. I stopped reading fiction and threw my fate to the gods. Either I would deal directly with my own unexpressed self or I would experience nothing at all.

I guess I came to the place where I said goodbye to literature as a crutch. I waved goodbye to being the perpetual student, especially when all the twenty something’s were winning all the writing prizes through sheer intellectual energy. I believe I may have been sold a bill gf goods by the educators in this world. More and more I think that all of this importance of reading over doing was a conspiracy by academic elders making 200 grand per year and publishers doing the same. Everybody says they love reading and literature then they have to love it to eat once they choose it as a vocation or art form, but do they forget why? And if you are constantly shoveling more and more of this into your head, where is your own mind? Do you have room? Must you perpetually shovel so that you be like an addicted teenager to his or her telephone? All in the name of smarts? Healthy smarts? Beneficial smarts, ones that will allow you to do your work at the top of your game. But where has the contemplation gone? Where have you gone? And mostly where have all those words gone because, conceivably, by my age I should have read enough words to provide me enough wisdom to last several generations. At some point might it be just important to put the book down, to stop being a student and, like those dyslexic CEOs become a doer instead and see into what form the words have molded you?

Perhaps when writers say that you must write to be a writer they mean that you must cease to be a reader and become a doer, an experiencer of the fruits of every word you have ever read. Wisdom piles up. Perhaps they are unconsciously telling us to put away dependence on what we think we know or ought to know so that we can enter the process completely free of immediate outside influence. Perhaps a high volume human word vacuum would discover that their own expression style resembles a feather slowly lifting away through a breeze. It is important to come to a sense of who you are through what you express because you discover your limitations, the end of your belief of who you are in exchange for the real and humble knowledge of who you actually are. I’m not Einstein, but then again, Einstein ain’t me. Should you desire to be Updike or Toni Morrison there is a way but it involves cloning. Even if you read every book your favorite author ever read you would still come up against the diagram of your parameters. A beautiful novel like The Old Man and the Sea isn’t Finnegans Wake, but would you want it to be? Everybody is afraid of looking foolish. We imagine our final forms will be revealed and we will see that we were slower than this one or not as beautiful as that one so we try to capture lightning where we can, to bottle thunder in the hope that people will mistake us for that, a human being for an inanimate phenomenon whose only real use is nature’s mystery and ours a vessel for symbolism. We are afraid to look up, to look away from the words of others, like we are afraid of falling behind in a race. Read those words! Have you read this writer yet? You really should because they can infuse their spirit into you and you might just succeed as if you would succeed after the mysterious transfer of the non existent reality that we call luck .

Or you can look away. Hear the frogs croak. Look around you. How did you get where you are, why are you there? Have you stopped long enough to figure it out? Maybe you should get a move on, be somewhere else, but one thing is for sure, you are where you are. No doubt about that and if you are there then there has to be a chance that if you put your mind and animal instinct to it you might just be able to move on to somewhere else. You look around and you can see, you put away the fantasy journal of others that by your reading it will somehow initiate you into a club of other able-minded mentalists. You will be alongside the big daddies, but don’t fall behind. Don’t fall behind or maybe you should.

I always liked the vignette in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath where the retarded man liked the river so stayed there. This a symbolic statement to me. One of those wisdoms through imagery that we can only get when we put the book away and allow it to come back to us. I see it as Steinbeck’s simple nature, the simple man inside of the elegant thinker. If you go toward the unsophisticated, the boring, the droning nothingness of nowhere inside of you, then you may eventually find a perch where thoughts of change can move you, make you eventually do. It is a lot like just slowing down. The writer needs to slow down, close the book of others to open the book of himself or herself, share, and by so doing, becoming a writer too.

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Published in: on July 25, 2014 at 4:55 am  Leave a Comment