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by Dan Manzanares
What literature means to me can be summed up in a bastardized version of the Ray Bradbury quote from Zen in the Art of Writing: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” I’ll replace the word ‘writing’ with ‘reading’ and there you have it.
But to go on for a little longer…Literature wakes me up. It wrings me out. It keeps me more alive with reality than do my own organs pumping me full of minerals and elements.
I ache with a need for story. And Lit satisfies that need while it simultaneously keeps me fiending.
Me drunk on literature is the best me. Hands down. On a good book, time is fluid, point of view ranges from the omniscient to the unreliable, and space is blasted with sensuality. On Lit I fuse with the human experience. I remember, I alter, I trust. Drinking that fine Lit down, I carbonize into the desirous me.
To pit myself against literature is akin to playing a game of chess, knowing that every time I play I will be checkmated. But still I play—checkmated each time. And if you read a story, and you aren’t checkmated at least once by the end of it, is that literature?
Literature strips you of moves. Corners you. Coup de grace’s you. But before it does all that, it brings you to the dirtiest you, to your residue, to that gristle and smear. Then it wields this line across and into what is left of your chaff:
“Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.”
~Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
Literature beats me across the spectrum of what it means to live and die. I meet Lit scared and furious and laughing.
Like my life.
Dan Manzanares serves as the Creative Curator for Lighthouse Writers. He is working on a novel.
This post is part of our Lit Matters series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts is meaningful to them. Lit Matters stories will be posted throughout the month of November, leading up to Colorado Gives Day on December 9. Mark your calendar for Colorado Gives Day or schedule your gift now. Thank you!