I have a bookshelf with several of my favorite authors. When I was more more organized, the top two shelves were dedicated to two writers exclusively. Hunter Thompson and Douglas Adams.
I have spent some time in collecting everything that they have written, at least within reason, as some books and editions are redundant or impossible to find. But for the most part, I have a complete collection. And now I fear it.
When you truly enjoy a great writer, you can just burrow through their pages, absorbing the words and prose, and burst out the other side of the book with a sweaty glow, soaking in the the feelings and emotions of the writing. Great works you can read over and over, but nothing replaces the thrill of picking up the next work. And I can now look at my shelf and not only see the next work, but the last work.
I have unread books from both Hunter and Douglas. And I will read them, but not yet. I have gone over the covers several times, feeling the spines, then sliding the books back into the gaps they leave in the shelf. Pulling one open and starting at the first page is carefully planned. These are influential works to me, even when they are just scribbled rantings, because there will be no more.
I met Douglas Adams when I had just graduated high school. He came to Seattle to the University Book Store for a book signing. I was thrilled to learn this, and was there right of the bat with my copies of hitchhikers guide to sign. Once I got to the front of the line, I had no idea what to say. I had been reading his books since Elementary school, and I didn’t know what to ask.
So I asked him one of the stock questions he always got, about getting the idea for the books lying in a field. I knew the answer, but hearing it from Douglas was worth it. He was my height, well over 6 feet, looking me in the eye. And he was sincere and happy to answer even the most basic question from one of his fans. I never forgot that moment.
I only read Hunter after becoming trapped in Las Vegas after Chuck’s wedding. We flew down on stand-by tickets into Las vegas, and by accident, the wedding was during March Madness. The wedding itself was fantastic, but Vegas was a zoo. By the last day of the long weekend we were ready to leave. But with stand by tickets, there was no space. So we waited another day. Nothing.
Yulia and I were trapped in Vegas with our daughter, and the estimate was that it would be at least 3 to 5 days before a clear flight would let us out.
At that point, I had The Fear.
To escape out of our desert gulag I worked a scheme with a car rental company, three airports, and getting put on the Terrorist Watch List that had us driving from Las Vegas to Seattle via San Francisco.
I knew of the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and after that experience, bought it to relate to what just happened to us. I was immediately struck by the writing, and never looked back. I read The Curse of Lono just before our last trip to Hawaii, and have the rest of Hunter’s books on the shelf.
Both Douglas’s humor and Hunter’s brutality influence my writing today. I love peeking into what they have written, but am not sure that I want to hit the end just yet.
Perhaps, once my writing us matured, it will be what fills that gap for me. The same way their own writing filled the gap from their literary heroes.
I’m not there yet. But each time I pull another book off that shelf, just a bit remains in me afterwards, and lives in on in my eyes and fingers. And is inflicted upon you.