Page 1: She steps into the room. Orange-gold light from dozens of candles paint a mosaic on her slender face. She flicks a strand of hair from her forehead. He notices the impatient motion. In the moment their eyes meet they forget every other love, every other joy, they've ever experienced.
Page 70: He slaps her. The sound of his hand against her flesh silences the birds and makes the squirrels run for cover. She laughs at the sting of his touch. The baby isn't his anyway.
Page 153: The bump on the back of her head oozes blood and a strange clear liquid that shines in the illuminated circle of a lonely street lamp. She wanders the rough pavement on an old sidewalk in an unfamiliar town. The policeman spots her crouched in a doorway, shivering in only a long tee-shirt and one woolen sock.
Page 226: "No! You can't have him!" She hurls herself at the elderly woman.
Page 332: Still wearing their soccer uniforms, two teens take a detour through a shorn wheat field. There's an odd lump in the flat landscape. By the time they're close enough to figure it out, both will be scarred by the vision of that one hand emerging from the coffee brown soil — the gray fingers curled around a mangled photograph.
It's taken me time to figure it out and I hope I can express it well here . . .
Books are essential because of the dance between author and reader, between reader and the written word. It's one of the most crucial pas de deux in the human repertoire.
For years, I've heard how books (and other forms of writing) make people work, that they're effortful. We're urged to simplify, to dumb down our prose, to apologize for the old technology of print or text-heavy passages without graphics.
We writers, booksellers, publishers, reviewers, scholars, have missed a fundamental truth about this medium — especially as it compares to others.
Even though the cultures of industralized societies are trending toward the flashy whizbang of electronic media, I think that it will be books that save and nurture human imagination.
The problem with all the new media: from movies to television, from video games to virtual worlds, is that we let other people imagine for us. While some of these works are interactive, astounding, mind-blowing, they're still passive in that we're seeing or playing by others' rules.
It's like taking our food intravenously rather than tasting it.
But the written word is different because it forces us to own it, to make it ours, to make it personal. In the quiet of our own minds, we dance and create because of what we read.
I suspect that's why Brennan #2 was disappointed with the movie TWILIGHT; she'd built her own images already and they didn't match those of the director.
That's why I wrote the sketchy story at the beginning of this post. I wanted to prove how much we all fill in the blanks, how active we become with the written word. And yet, no one reading those paragraphs will see the two women and man in the same way. Each reader will make dozens of different assumptions about them, about the whys and hows of their lives. Without realizing it, every one who takes the time to ponder the story will have created scenes and explanations far beyond those few hundred words.
So, yeah, books make us work. And guess what? Without exercise, our minds and imaginations atrophy.
I believe that books are the primary prophylactics against creative pudginess. They prevent us — all of us who read, anyway – from becoming lock-step thinkers, monochromatic mentalists.
To me, that's the reason to buy books, to make them presents. By doing so, we're giving the gift of imagination.
Imagination is the heartbeat of change.
Without it, no innovation is possible.
Books save the world.
1. Am I making any sense here? Do we not talk about books and imagination because the link is so obvious?
2. What did you picture in that story?