I often read interviews in which acclaimed authors cite several esoteric writers that have had a huge influence on their latest work; it might be a collection of British writers who were published during the late 19th century and wrote primarily about the colonial experience in India, or the masters of pulp horror fiction in the US during the 40’s. These authors profess gratitude and an easy familiarity with these recondite writers, and it is then that I am struck with a feeling of inadequacy and jealousy.
Now, I’ve been reading for about as long as I can remember. When we recently moved house, I had to help schlep some 15 boxes of children’s books, not to mention the entire library which filled a small U-Haul truck by itself. I read voraciously during high school, less so during college, and now that I am neck deep in the real world, I read, in comparison, hardly at all.
Beyond this current lack of reading (relatively speaking), I am cursed with a terrible memory. I can’t remember what Timons of Athens is about, nor can I recall most of the contents of The Inferno. Anton Chekhov’s short stories? I remember loving Winesburg, Ohio, but not precisely why. Ask me my favorite poet and I can stammer out a handful of names, but really they’re just the ones that I can recall on the spot.
This is what I wished my memory looked like:
Ah! If only I had the discipline, the time, and the inclination to read and read and read all day long, to take copious notes, to read in such a state of well being and health that my lucid mind would firmly take down the salient points and qualities of each thing I read, and retain them for future use! But such is the lament of most writers, I imagine, people who can’t resist the siren call of an active social life, who fall asleep at 2am only to wake five hours later to trudge to work, mind as bleary as a steamed up windshield.
Then, after the work day is over and I sit down with a mug of tea and my laptop and try to write, why, I can barely form the words, the phrases. Blankness and fatigue settle about me like a leaden cape, and I write in a Hemingway-esque manner that is devoid of any brilliance. “He saw the door and went through it and in the next room was the villain. He pulled out his gun and shot at him but missed and cursed loudly when the villain dived out of the window, because it was a first story window and not a tenth.”
Ah! If only I had a great, archival memory bank, if only I was always clear minded and sharp as a ginsu knife, if only I could resist the allure of a drink or three with friends after work, and plunge head first always and foremost into the writing world!