I use the plagiarism checker at Grammarly.com because “reuse and recycle” works to help the environment, but maybe not your English assignment or your glorious novel-in-progress.
A Beautiful Thing
I’ve been thinking about the book tour I went on recently with Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain, the three of us in our pajamas, telling stories. The first place we brought this rendition of the show, Bedtime Stories for Adults, was a public library in Tulsa.
It’s a library that’s closed for the next two years, ready to be demolished and remodeled. Without any books, it was a beautiful though dystopian setting.
It was the library of some terrible future where the Native American Resource Center had no resources, only rows of empty shelves.
One central wall was graced with golden letters proclaiming the eternal value of books! It was a quote–maybe most of a speech–called “The World of Books,” by the author Clarence Day. In his words, “…Monuments fall…Nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out and after an era of darkness new races build others but in the world of books are the volumes that have seen this happen again and again…and yet live on…still young…”
Young or old, there weren’t any books in the building. They were gone.
If they were living on, it was in storage.
But we brought our books, and read and met the audience and had a party. Because the building was scheduled for demolition, we had permission to invite the audience to write on the walls. Chuck invited them to write things they wanted to let go of, things they were ready to have demolished.
In the documentary, “Kicking the Loose Gravel Home,” by Annick Smith, the poet Richard Hugo talks about “putting words on the page to amuse” himself. He says, “That’s writing…” In the most fundamental way, that’s what writing is.
On the walls of the Tulsa library, people wrote a lot.
Some wrote in ways that weren’t about letting go at all, but about celebrating the moment, having a fleeting voice. We all want to let go, and we want to hold on.
They wrote names and wishes and the word “love.” They wrote curses, obscenities and prayers. “Cunt” came up with a little too much redundancy, and “taint” seemed to be a crowd pleaser, but I was more interested in all the big dreams articulated, and there were plenty of them. It was beautiful. There were people who wrote about the extremely personal drama of struggling with health concerns, and life. Others wrote about public drama–and by public, I mean things like Breaking Bad. That public: on TV.
Now, a month later, maybe the building is entirely different inside, gutted and in rubble. Hopefully it’ll come back around and be a fantastic place full of books and events. Books will live on, still young! Or not. Either way, for now, we have our memories, and they’re good ones.
At least there’s that.
Cheers, Tulsa! So glad to meet you! An honor and a privilege, just to be alive.