Following the legacy of Nana Marian’s desk
By Jan Dynes
Blessed was I to grow up with fine literature at my fingertips in Nana’s Chippendale desk. It stood polished and majestic and yet also oozed dust motes of past brilliance from long deceased poets, playwrights and novelists, dripping of a more romantic and yet brutal past too, enthralled by the rich leather-bound volumes.
Hemingway had his Cuba, Thoreau his Walden Pond, Dumas made sword fights dance lively as Moby Dick and Old Man in the Sea pointed me to ride the seas for six years of wanderlust, reading popular novels of little literary weight as my mind atrophied at the helm of my yacht.
Rewinding to my university literature days, the Baird seemed so much more relevant as I gained in years, heartbreaks, experience and lost memories rediscovered.
These leather-bound friends beckoned from my Nana Marian’s secretary desk; summoning me to stroke every spine before leaving them behind in my politically dysfunctional country to go to my Cuba and Pond. I was to answer Ecuador’s siren song.
Oh yes; while tepid and careful lead to boredom, diving splendiferously into a literary ocean of spirits splattering sensitively where veins bled on parchment, these authors who had merited leather bindings, tin typed portraits and my favorite flyleaf, an original lithograph of a long-past century in the Picture of Dorian Gray. This gluttony of devouring serious artistry by wordsmiths again cleansed my palette of modern novels as surely as a juice diet purges impurities and illness from a body.
Preparing with literature gluttony for Nirvana, I reread every book before parting with them. Then I could anoint Cuenca my muse where I could then go gleefully enraptured! These authors will crowd my brain with so much mastery, I will channel them as an old soothsayer does, I shall take them intimately inside and carry them, so many lives and adventures, now mine, fully digested they will always be inside and guide my hand as well.
Mere mortals materialize genius through metamorphosis after challenges. I climbed jubilantly through yellowed, much-loved pages before the rare bookman came to wrap and carry Nana away along with those mornings 60-plus years ago, when those leather beauties beckoned this inquisitive child to beg to be read to and finally to wade through independently and ravenously.
Oh, Thomas Wolfe came much later than Twain’s dear Tom, Shelley’s pieced together monster, Dumas’ scalawags and F. Scott’s gay Gatsby. Now with such fine examples ingested and I had devoured, I would use my tortured pen resourcefully and hopefully rip open with greed such agile prose, most profuse, in a torrential release of words never ceasing, crafted in pain and joy. I would try with them all embedded in me to become, to grow and hopefully write sentences of diamonds like my beloved masters. I would strive.
These legends, before screen and scripts for the idiot box, were the real deal, and they never spilled coffee on laptops. Their work was blood, penned furiously on paper or napkins in taverns fueling themselves with hard liqueurs and angst while inviting cirrhosis and more words, to keep pen penning and their derrieres in their chairs.
They might feign boredom at the bar that would go unrecognized, yet when pen in hand; words wound wondrously wild, as callouses on the back of thumb and index finger festered, so too their livers as a bottle of bourbon was the staple of each desktop, when words grew ponderous. Oh my, they were something, ravaged by the creativity that drove them.
Now desire ignited in me to write even just one perfect sentence these long dead, worm consumed maestros had shared, driving me to get limber and elastic, in magical mind yoga pretzels all for the love of a lost art and a deep desire for literary thriving in my Andes mirage of clouds, obstructing perfection yet producing freedom in ardor; to drop craft for literature and swim with the big dogs now vanquished.
I will not go big game hunting, nor shoot to destroy my liver with bounteous booze from a tankard of ale on my desk; I will use my computer. I have known my own ponds and monsters, my Gatsbys and Dorian Greys … they will metamorphosize for new stories’ sake and to help me spill new blood on parchment. I will strive to make boredom cease when achieving the end of sentences. I will find all the roads less traveled in my experiences, heart and mind. They will take me on a wild ride before cinema stole sparkle-making imagination regurgitating the trite or obsolete.
A magic carpet ride awaits, with my as yet unwritten imaginings, utterances, characters, mirth and pain. Writing is life, it is passion and even a death of sorts when a masterpiece’s final word is written. Putting words in torrents on pages is as important to a writer as a heartbeat is to live a life of value.
Jan Dynes, the author of Refraction, Dottie’s Gift, Jamal’s Story, The River and Hear Our Voices moved to Cuenca Easter two years ago and fell in love with the city and its people. She lives on a finca on a mountaintop 25 minutes out of Cuenca at 10,400 ft. She found her paradise!