You know I’m thinking a lot of book and movie reviews and stuff like that, and I realize the ones I like the best (esp HTMLGiant’s new 25 points series) are the ones that talk about the reader’s life around and surrounding the book. Where the book doesn’t float and exist only as a series of plot and characters and symbols and that sort of thing, but exists in a context to that reader’s life. It’s more about things being a personal experience of a work, and I think that’s the best way to see and read a review is in that context, because the review itself transcends the basic “good book bad book” and becomes a work of creative non-fiction itself. It plants the reader square inside the experience itself, that exists and extends beyond a book.
The way we consume and subsume narratives is personal, the way we approach and see and experience something at a certain point in our life makes that work as a part of that experience of life. The work itself ebbs into the memories, creating a poignant wrap up in some part of the reader’s life. Sure, in a way it’s solopstic, it’s about the ego of the experiencer seeing the experience as universal when it’s personal. But then again, at the same time, by acknowledging the personal it makes it more tied up and real and somehow the concept of fiction seeps into the life of the reader and it ceases to be an external notifier and becomes something else, something other, some part of our lives.
I was talking to my awesome poet/novelist/publisher friend Tim Miller and we were discussing re-reading books that happen to be read at a certain point in our lives when we were still defining who we were, as writers, as readers, as human beings and what we experience. We were trying out new works old works etc works looking for something that we could connect with, and the books we found and connected with at that time were somehow integral to defining and shaping our personal narratives of that moment. But on return to those works they have become tarnished with time, the memory of what shook us and broke us apart and exploded inside of us had become a ghost haunting the actuality of it.
It was like, to me, visiting places that stored memories of so much of your life, and going there and seeing everything different, everything changed. Nothing being the same, and the things that are the same are empty of the people that created that memory, so that the space in time and place in time that had seemed so important to defining who we were became haunted by what had happened so long ago and is missing now and displaced now. There is an emptiness creeping into these places and these moments, not a real emptiness but an emptiness that we bring in to ourselves, a missing hole of what once was and a longing for that experience to be the experience you once had. But, time moves on and sloughs off it’s old skin, and all we have left is a hollow what was, and with each moment and movement as we pull on and go forward changes everything inside of us and around us, and being able to grasp onto that moment even in memory is trying to grasp onto ghosts, haunting floating things that flicker and then die away and not become anything at all. Errant emotions that can still be a part of the environment, and yet aren’t there anymore, shadows of what was could be but isn’t anymore.
That’s what it’s like to return to these books and return to these moments, to see them in a different light, and that light has changed somehow, dimmed and fallen dark and shadowed. I think in a way personal reviews are a snapshot of the time before, before we return and everything is different somehow. It’s like a part made permanent, these thoughts and memories of the external all tied up into the internal, before the knot unravels and the two become separated and distinct and different.