I recall a friend once posed this question to a group of us: “If length were not a factor, what book would you want to memorize, to swallow whole?” For a brief time we were in the midst of beautiful words and free from the world’s vitriol. Responses ran the gamut from The Velveteen Rabbit to Great Expectations. My book of choice was Andrei Makine’s slender volume Music of a Life. Maybe because the novel is only a little over a hundred pages or maybe because Makine explores themes of war and loss, suffering and beauty through images of such simplicity and lyricism—likening music to a silken thread slipping through a needle’s eye. I think of his craft and skill and want to ask him, “What book would you memorize?”
“Starting from anywhere” is one of those lines from T.S. Eliot that makes me feel wise and wonderful, although Eliot’s poetry often is beyond my comprehension. What hooks me every time is the word cadence.
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season.
It would always be the same; you would have to put off
Sense and notion.
Journey is an old theme that contains infinite interpretations. I began to write my memoir, If You Came This Way, the story of my family, the convent, and my decisions to remain too long in a place where I did not fit. Now the memoir is complete, but a question remains. What exactly is at the heart of any journey?
The Dear Lucky Agent Contest (http://tinyurl.com/j4d3kqz) encouraged me to attempt a new understanding of my writing odyssey. One contest requirement is to submit the first 150-300 words. Ah, if that doesn’t demand a clear-eyed knowledge of a starting point. Next, I had to map my memoir’s route in one sentence. I fussed for a while. Impossible to put my unique story in such a confined space. Yet, I did. After I met the challenge of both word count and succinct sentence came an experience akin to hanging out with Eliot, a belief that I’m little wiser and a little more wonderful.