Monday, September 19, 2011

To say so, and live so, and be so

After posting an excerpt from each chapter of A Listening Thing, I wonder if I can, or even should pick up where I left off, with drawings and poems and sticks and stones and memories and dreams that go bump in the night. Part of me — a big part, bigger than you might imagine — would be quite content to spend the rest of my days in total seclusion, doing nothing but reading and writing. It’s the part that grew up on the farm and worked there in the sublime quiet for hours, weeks, and months at a time, listening to nature, listening to myself, listening to my feet on the ground, listening to sorrow and listening to bones, listening to the triumph and failure of the family of man, which is exactly the same as my own.

And here I laugh. Is it really as serious as that? Or is this just one more round of exhaustion and melancholy? Stephen would know. Stephen Monroe. And he would try his best, in the simplest of words, to say so. He would say what I feel: that we are both sailing into the unknown.

“You make plain words sing.” That is what someone told me the other day.

The fact is, I have friends in this world who understand this connection we’ve built on sunlight and air, and who are aware of its strength and fragility. They have accepted
A Listening Thing as tangible evidence of what will surely outlive us all: love and its power to heal. I am tremendously grateful to each and every one.

At the same time, in this world of preposterous wants and ludicrous needs, I understand that we cannot be everything to everyone. We can, though, let down our guard and learn to close the distance between us.

Another part of me hungers for conversation.

Another part thrives on your attention.

Another part cares to the point of depression.

Still another part remembers things I did when I was five or ten years old, and how they made me feel like a dew-drenched orange tree waking to the sun.

To say so, and be so, and live so, creates its own urgent demands. I sensed it then:
my life is not my own. And now I’m as much a witness as anyone else.

For now, though, not knowing what tomorrow or even what this day will bring, I send thanks to each and every one of you who have welcomed this book into your life.

To everyone else, one final note: The price will go up soon. If you’ve enjoyed the excerpts, if you’re tempted at all, and if you have the money to spare, I ask that you order a book for yourself or a friend. Upon reading it, perhaps you will feel as other readers did when they said:

“I can’t recommend this book enough.
So unflinchingly honest and human.”

“I can’t think of a book in recent years that connected with me so.
It speaks to all of us.”

“A wonderful book full of heart and common sense.
A must read for anyone.”

“A deep journey into the heart/mind of loneliness and hope
told in the clearest voice of true vision.”

“Tender, deeply honest, authentic.”

“Thank you for the gift of your words.”

“I’m left feeling less alone. Thank you.”

“Even in novel form, you write like a poet.”

“What a fabulous read, devoured it in a few days....
it engulfed and consumed me.”

“The book is wise and sad and joyful like its creator.”

To which I will add, wise and sad and joyful like Stephen Monroe.


Elisabeth said...

I'm reading your book at the moment, William. I savour every moment, every quiet moment when I have time to delve into the life of one Stephen Monroe.

I agree with that someone who says 'you make plain words sing', but it's more than your words, it's your ideas and thoughts and feelings, the everyday rumblings of a troubled, but also to me quite normal, mind at work.

The sheer interiority of it, lodged in an external and plausible world is captivating.

Thanks, William. You deserve to be proud of this achievement.

William Michaelian said...

And thank you, Elisabeth, for your beautiful, inspiring response. Stephen and I have traveled a long way together, and it’s clear to me now that our lives are inextricably intertwined. Where he goes, I will follow. That is the fiction of my life. Knowing that you have and are reading A Listening Thing makes that fiction more than real — it makes it liveable.

erin said...

i see you)))

i have your book, william, but i feel peculiar. it is, of course, robert's in a way, more than it is mine. and i love robert. and yet he is in his home again on the east coast. and your book is here. and it is like a moth - waiting, its wings pulsing. and it is ok. it is ok to watch the moth in wonder.

what joy might happen, what life, when i open the moth one day.


leigh tuplin said...

Hi William.

I've just ordered 'A listening Thing' and am very much looking forward to reading it, and pleased to meet you btw.


William Michaelian said...

Erin, I feel the same way about this parting of you and Robert. And I was wondering if the book had flown with him or stayed. Now I know. I think we must find a way for Robert to have a copy as well. That is important to me. As always, we will watch as things unfold. I love you both.

Leigh, thanks very much for ordering the book. I hope it’s everything you expect and more. I’m honored to meet you, and I’m already enjoying your blog.

Wine and Words said...

No. 25

It is mine. It is written there on the line. And I like the number. It is a quarter. It is a fourth. It feels round to me...this copy. And I know it will circle within me for a long time. Like Erin...I am waiting for the proper time to take it in. That time is not now. I want to be completely focused on it. For now, I am too scattered. Oh but William....

I am No. 25 of you.

Two Tigers said...

It amazes and comforts me, the life of this book of yours, how it exists above and beyond you and yet is entirely within you, and within each of us who read it. It is absolutely that transcendent experience of reading, of the book as a force to be reckoned with, that those of us still crazy in love with the word find so hard to explain and prove to the unbelievers.

I follow the reactions of new readers here, and almost feel a tinge of regret that I will never again be able to enter the world and soul of this book for the first time. It was a beautiful day for me, one I hoped would never end, and like you in the wake of these chapter excerpt postings, afterwards I wondered how I could return to the same things as before when all had so clearly changed.

Thank you my friend.

William Michaelian said...

And we will be dangerous. Thank you, Annie. A Listening Thing will be ready when you are.

Gabriella, such kindness and eloquence, as always. Again and again, we return to the well. I wonder: each time we do, is it an old thirst we quench or one that is new? The fact that we do change would seem to indicate the latter. The fact that we return, the former. I say, let it be both. And I thank you.

Anonymous said...

I just finished your book, William, but I can tell it is not finished with me. I'll write it up in more detail when I have some free time (free time? what does that look like? or is all time free? see: I am Stephen Monroe!), but suffice it to say the book is bristling with little sticky notes to mark many of things I can't forget. A lovely, humane book, my friend. Congratulations on seeing it finally into print....

vazambam said...

My number's 12 but I'm in no hurry--I read just one chapter a day, letting the full force of your wonderful book seep slowly into my body,giving me sustenance day after day.

William Michaelian said...

Joe, your beautiful comment brings a great image to mind: that while you were reading the book, it was reading you; then you go to the mirror and discover sticky notes all over your face and arms.... and then your wife comes in and says, “Stephen, someone wants you on the phone....”

Many thanks for joining me in this ordeal, and for your kind words. And when that free time comes, send me a picture of it. Maybe if I know what it looks like, I can grab some for myself. Until then, I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts.

Vassilis, thanks. The number 12 is significant for a couple of reasons: first, it’s the date of my grandfather’s birthday in May; second, it’s the age I was when I threw fifteen strikeouts in a six-inning little league game. When the major league scouts interviewed me after the game, they were surprised that the thing foremost in my mind was the root beer float waiting for me when I got home. Even more significant: we used only wooden bats. Had those lousy metal ones even been invented? You know Stephen’s opinion on the matter.

Paul L. Martin said...

Your voice in the world, in print or over the crackling phone line, makes all the difference. Yours are the books I take down for solace and wonder and renewal. I am lucky to have them in my library and I will treasure them always.

William Michaelian said...

Paul, whatever happens, and whether I die tomorrow or live on to a ripe old age, let it be written here and now for all the world to see that my life has grown immeasurably through your wisdom and friendship. And your three wondrous sentences: I would proudly claim them as my epitaph — with due credit, of course, and a chiseled link to your website. And you know that this is just my way of saying that I realize how totally ridiculous I am. As Longfellow said, “Life is real, life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal.” And what is its goal? If it isn’t this moment bursting at the seams with sorrow and joy, then our situation is grave, very grave, indeed.

Aleks said...

How fine to read all of this again,in peace with my frozen feet right now cause it is such an evening,whole day actually that I spent in my favorite position,hovering above this hard making noize computer of mine,secretly (from whom? is my questioning mind asking :)if not from myself),unwashed,some crackers and milk to eat and drink and enjoying,like I did for the first time.I remember how I came in like a child in a strange,old bookshop where I found one day a man and his friends that will change my life for good! :) Simply beautiful,all of you!
Time for some warm socks otherwise my fever will rise and make more exhausted!
But first I must do this ___Please prove you're not a robot_
Im not!!!
Aleksandra is here :)

William Michaelian said...

Yes, she is here, and as always she brings joy with her. Thank you, Aleksandra.