Last month, I joined a book club. I confess it’s a small one, perhaps too small to refer to as a club, as we are only two members, and one of us is soundly dead. Mind you, this deceased member – the club’s founder, in fact – was alive and breathing when he first extended an invitation to me, his son – an invitation I declined at the time but have now, some thirty years late, accepted with reverence. So begins the Dead Man’s Book Club.
Human memory is a strange, fickle thing. Most of us struggle to retain the memories we find most useful while unwittingly squandering precious brain capacity on seemingly pointless memories. One of my pointless memories is the image of a book – a thick, ponderous piece of work, dressed in hardcover and a worn paper jacket.
When I was a kid, this book made temporary home out of an end table in our living room for what seemed like a year. Likely, it was little more than a month it rested there, but as I say, human memory is a funny thing, and in a palpable way, my mind sees The Talisman still fixed there upon the same table – a benevolent specter, unseen by the home’s current occupants.
My dad relished the task of traversing the book’s nearly seven-hundred pages. Repeatedly, he challenged me to tackle the read myself, but I never seriously considered it. Now having finally partaken, I think it’s better I waited. Parts are intense and scary for a younger reader, and more importantly, I could not have appreciated the profundity of the story as I do now.
It’s a shame Dad did not live long enough for me to grow sufficient attention span and mental fortitude for us to discuss the book together in person, but here again I fall back on the strange nature of memory; for in my memory, I see him now as I did then, hefting the gigantic tome before him, citing his appreciation for the great Stephen King’s writing style – his way of weaving intricate tales and creating characters so vivid you fall in love with them, just so he can unexpectedly kill them off. I can see him saying these things and so much more. I can see myself, now having savored the tale myself, responding back to him.
“Thanks for recommending The Talisman, Dad. You were right. It’s good,” I say.
“What am I to say? You should have listened to me and read it thirty years ago!” Dad says.
“Nah, I think it’s better I waited. Now that I’m grown up, we can discuss it rightly, as men.”
“Okay, then. Let’s get to it. Favorite character and why?” he asks.
“Oh, that’s easy. Or should I say it’s ‘axiomatic’?”
“Ha! ‘Axiomatic’ Isn’t that a great word?”
“Yeah, Dad, great word. Nobody can inject new life into old words like Stephen King. Anyway, my favorite character’s gotta be Wolf.”
“Hard not to like Wolf,” Dad says, “The way he gives his life to save Jack. You notice the parallel to Christ?”
“Geez, Dad. Leave it to you to make a Gospel comparison out of a Stephen King book. You used to do the same thing with Led Zeppelin lyrics for God’s sake.”
“You think I’m wrong?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “You’re probably right.”
“Good,” he says, grinning. “So what do think is the point of the story?”
“Hmmm,” I look up and wrinkle my forehead in thought. “I think the story is about learning, the way a person grows as he learns.”
“And the way things that once seemed impossible later become possible,” he adds.
“Right!” I say. “Like when Jack finally understands all the magic he’ll ever need is inside of him, and he stares into the empty face of that killer demon in the suit of armor and says–”
“‘Get thee off the skin of this world!'” Dad interrupts, his smile glowing.
“Right. ‘Get thee off the skin of this world’,” I say, sharing his smile.
“I think you get the story,” he says. “You’ve really grown up, kiddo.”
“I guess I have, haven’t I?”
“Sure have,” says Dad, his voice sobering. “We oughta do this again.”
“Yeah, we should do it again,” I say, and I want to say something more, but I’m embarrassed. Evidently, Dad senses this.
“What’s on your mind, kiddo?” he asks.
“You know, I write stories now, too.” I say, shyly.
“You always have,” he says.
“Not like I used to,” I say. “Not little stories about kids who accidentally lock themselves in the fridge and blow themselves free with a shaken can of root beer. I mean big stories. I mean the make you think sorta stories. Kinda like…”
“Like The Talisman,” he finishes for me.
“Yeah,” I say. “but it’s just all so crazy.”
“Crazy because regular guys like me don’t write stories. It’s not normal.”
“Maybe you didn’t learn Jack’s lesson from The Talisman after all,” he says. “Remember? All the magic he ever needed was where?”
“Inside him,” I say.
“Inside him. Who else is going to write that big, make people think story if you don’t?” he asks.
“Right. So get to it, then. ‘Right here and now’,” he says, quoting Wolf’s favorite mantra from The Talisman, chuckling as he does so.
“‘Right here and now??'” I respond in a growling voice, which I imagine sounds like Wolf’s might sound.
Dad chuckles. “I love ya, kiddo. ‘Right here and now’.”
Meeting One of the Dead Man’s Book Club, adjourned.
Until next time.
This is really great, Luke. I look forward to reports on future club meetings.
Luke – I miss my Dad so much lately
He was a kind and brilliant gentleman. He knew so much about history and politics. As a teen and young adult, I had no interest in such things and my patient Dad never pushed the issue. My own grown kids never have much interest in the news either. Too busy with jobs, raising kids , going out with friends .
But now I wish SO MUCH. to discuss politics with him, he was a strong Democrat , but I am so curious about what he would think of Obama . Or Hillary? And the whole ISIS problem. And Bengazi
? I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t care more about history and news back then. So many questions.
You are getting the best of both worlds here, since your dad has gone to the next world and you are still getting the benefit! I am sure he is glad that you joined the Dead Man’s Book Club except you should call it the Dad Man’s Book Club. More companionable. Like a good book club facilitator, Dad asks probing questions but lets you find the answers yourself.
I have to admit that the voice of my dad here doesn’t sound much like my dad did. (Other than referring to me as “kiddo”).
Of course, I’ll never know how he may have spoken to me as an adult, so maybe I’m not too far off.
Either way, something in me moved as I imagined that conversation. Once again, writing casts its spell.
Of all the writings of yours I’ve read, this makes me think the most. From what I’m getting, your not really talking about the “book club” You’re using it as a stage for something deeper, just like the movie “Titanic” isn’t about a ship. And even the conversations you have with your Dad are just on the surface of something greater. But it’s that greatness that you’re writing about. And from what I read hear, it would take an entire 700 page novel to barily uncover the it.
This is brilliant. And thanks for always commenting and encouraging me in my posts. I believe that’s a form of magic, too.
So kind of you to say. Thanks.
Reblogged this on Diary of a Teenage Activist.
Your humor and and honest self-reflection are delightfully refreshing. I will be following for sure. Thanks for liking my post “On believing in Fairies”.
Thanks for reading and for the kind words, dear lady.