Monday, November 20, 2006

Voices and shadows

My friend's newly-published book arrived in the mail today. I'm so proud of her. I had read all of the stories in the collection when they were in manuscript form, and had been amazed by the voices that spoke to me, that stuck to me. And now, it's even more incredible to see all those characters leap out from a published volume, available from Chapters and Amazon with the click of a button. I love the materiality of the volume. I love its simple whiteness, the fresh smell of the pages. This book is special to me; I know the painstaking hours, days, months, years put into it. I remember my friend talking over the ideas, relaying to me what her characters were telling her, how they had come to life both because and in spite of her. I'll be reading the stories over again. This time, the characters will speak to me differently: They are no longer shadows, but are flesh and blood. But I feel as though I know the shadows intimately. I'm a bit scared to begin this second reading.

I should be starting my own book, letting those voices take shape into shadows, and eventually step out into the light. Early this morning, I started reading Return to the Drum, a memoir written by a school-teacher who lived in Deline (then Fort Franklin) in the 1960's. Maybe one day, I'll write a memoir of my time in Inuvik. Living here, more than any other place, I feel as though I'm on the threshold of some great change, of a society propelled forward rapidly. Then again, I don't think I could ever write a memoir. I could never bear turning myself into a character. There is something too final about the published page. I want my voice to be more fluid than what autobiography offers. I'm comfortable only when my voice flows through a multitude of fictions, whirling around an amorphous truth. It's the feeling, and not a statement or declaration of truth that I seek.

But, all that said, I have to start. I'm thinking of picking out the names of my characters this week. I've always been drawn to the name “Sarah.” There's a sweetness and a vulnerability there. But I'll make my Sarah strong. She shall make herself strong. 

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