In the company of great minds

I love to sit in my libraries (one at home, and one in my office) during my spare hours, and when not reading or working, I try to visualize the tears, fears, joys and adventures that led to the writing of the tales within the pages of those many books on the shelves. Sometimes, when stuck on a plot point in my own stories, I thumb through these books for a prompt that will get me going again. And I stop to silently thank the writer concerned for the nudge to my stalled creativity.

I glance through the spines of murder mysteries, histories, Canadian literature, American literature, Asian, European and Jewish literature, children’s stories, “how•to” books on writing, and on business consulting, books on wine making, golfing, encyclopaedias that I never refer to now thanks to Wikipedia, dictionaries that I rarely refer to because of, books on nutrition, or on how to make money and retire early (I never read this latter category now because the formulas did not work for me), fantasy novels, magazine and finally even copies of the novels I have written, and the magazines and anthologies my short stories have been published in, and I feel in good company.

I try to visualize the angst these writers suffered to experience, create and bring to fruition their works, works that have outlived the lives of some of their creators and continue to give us pleasure and wisdom today. Many of the dead writers would have passed on with no clue as to the merit their hard work would garner beyond their life spans.

And I feel a sense of loss, because all these books will soon be condensed into a small electronic tablet that I will cart around with me henceforth and read whenever I need an injection of intellectual stimulation in the printed form. I will have to imagine all these great minds and their wisdom squeezed into a mini computer chip. I wonder what I will do when I have to add new books to my present libraries; will there even be tangible books in the future? Or will my present collection remain stagnant, with every addition arriving in electronic form?

I do know that my new e•reader will be many times more efficient, reducing space in my luggage, giving me instant access to books that pique my fancy, letting me sample chapters before I decide to buy, giving me dictionary and encyclopaedia access to words or passages I come across, even read back to me when I am too tired to exert my eyes. But will it give me companionship with the masters, where by sitting quietly in my library and touching those old tomes, I would connect with the spirits of the great writers who contributed so much to the literary canon, and who inspired me to follow my life path? I wonder?

3 thoughts on “In the company of great minds”

  1. I was just reviewing some of your writings and after reading this blog in particular was reminded of a quote from George MacDonald. His language is fantastically romantic and unfamiliar but he speaks in this passage of Lilith about the change in the protagonist’s view as he looked back at his more abstract self. He advocates the celebration of the alive (the author) over the static (the text) the personhood of the writer over his product the book. While both are to honoured the author is to be embraced.

    From Lilith – A Romance By George MacDonald
    I began to learn that it was impossible to live for oneself even, safe in the presence of others-then, alas, fearfully possible! Evil was only through good! Selfishness but a parasite on the tree of life! In my own world I had the habit of solitary song; here not a crooning murmur ever parted my lips! There I sang without thinking; here I thought without singing! There I had never had a bosom friend; here the affection of an idiot would have been divinely welcome! “If only I had a dog to love!” I sighed-and regarded with wonder my past self, which preferred the company of book or pen to that of man and women; which, if the author of a tale I was enjoying appeared, would wish him away that I might return to his story. I had chosen the dead rather than the living, the thing thought rather than the thing thinking! “Any man,” I said now, “is more than the greatest of books!” I had not cared for my live brothers and sisters, and now I was left without even the dead to comfort me!

  2. Paul – I prefer the living to the dead too. But these writers must have been rich human beings to bring so much to the paper, imagined or real. The subliminal connection with these people, even through parchment and ink is an enriching experience. Regards!

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