in the novel 'the book of flying' by keith miller, there is the legend of a book that, once read, will give the reader wings. literal wings, for the purpose of flying. (half the population in the town from which the protagonist, a questing poet, hails was born with wings. pico was not. hence, his quest.)
anyway, the point is, there is this book. a book in which the reading experience is life (and anatomy) -changing. a book that contains within it a story more true and satisfying than any other book that's been written. a book to end all books.
this sort of legend is a ubiquitous one and has always caught my imagination in its grip. so much so that the feeling of stepping into a library or bookstore contains within it the belief in the possibility of finding said book. or, that the combination of all the volumes under one roof can simulate it--or metaphorically create it. if you could dump all the words from all the stories in this room out onto the floor and stir them up to let all of the story lines intersect and all of the characters meet, maybe the jumbled structure the would result from pushing them into a one big pile would be the story that we all want desperately to read. that everyone dreams about at night. that feeds every desire we have to be fed when we pick up a new book ready to be incorporated into its world.
maybe the idea that there is one book that can satiate all of us is the part that is fabulous--the stuff of fable, of lore and legend. but the possibility that there is one book that will do that for each of us and maybe no two people need the exact same story, that might not be so outlandish. of course, this explains the existence of writers and their purpose in life. tho, not publishers. cuz what is each person spending their life writing but the book they themselves most need to read? are readers who don't write just lazy questers? are publishers just mountebanks passing off one person's life-blood as some else's elixir of life? or do some stories, ones that authors craft truly and well that actually are full to the brim of that which sustains their own life, (cuz there are plenty of authors who don't come close to their one true book, either thru lack of skill or lack of courage) do those most true stories for one person actually sustain others on some level? can they keep us going for a time, inspiring us to move closer to our own stories, showing it is possible, giving us hope to carry on trying? cuz it's a lifetime's worth of work to find the story within each of us and accumulate the courage and skill to tell it well.
the books that i love most in the world are the ones that have the largest portions of that one true book (or my personal version of it) within them. which means that through them, i'm compiling a map of what my book looks like. at the moment there are still gaps in the puzzle leaving entire roads on this journey dark in the realm of conjecture, surrounded by the aura of fairytale. one of the reasons i love writing is that it means plunging into one of those uncharted forests and seeing what i can find. armed only with the compass of my knowledge of lore and the flashlight of my pen, i am happy to explore the wilds of the imagination with just the illumination of my feet as i go. what keeps out the fear that i'm headed off into the complete unknown is the cartographic proof that the surrounding landscape is favorable to questing and the fact that resourcefulness is my middle name. besides, who's ever heard of a quest that utterly failed?
so, folks. i'm off. headed out to find that book. the one that i unconsciously search bookshelves for, knowing somehow that i won't find it till i see my name on its spine. i already see a couple paths to follow, and my plan for the next 12 months is to do less physical traveling through the u.s. and more journeying through the imaginative landscape that spans many pages and dreams and hours staring at the pictures in the mind's eye. wish me luck.
better yet, send me off with the title of a book that contains within it the biggest piece of your version of that one book. cuz the only things i'm packing for this trip are the stories that will get me where i need to go.