On the unexpected book that made me a writer ‹ Literary Hub

I once thought that power was important select, it seems, your job as a writer is to recruit a small family of writers to support you in your work. While writing my first book, I actually put this idea into practice: I put a board on my desk, filled with 30 or 40 activities that I thought would inject a lot of power into my work. . I know the titles of them because I’m looking at them now.

If I need inspiration to write a beautiful story, I’ll get Hollinghurt or Cusk; My go-to characters were Nabokov or Denis Johnson; for nature, Adichie and Franzen; so to speak, Rooney or Zadie Smith. Mary Carr The Liar Company I didn’t have a style of work that I craved but a personality that I thought, of course, would register: a way of writing about a humble family with unrelenting honesty and love. again. And some monoliths of the canon—Middlemarch, American Shepherd—It was there for so many days that I couldn’t remember the purpose of writing a book, or the purpose of writing.

Of course, this is one of my best ideas. When I was writing at home, I used to use it several times a day. So are those books my biggest influences? (I know now) the smallest ideas. You may have already seen the confusion in my first picture of how power works: a “small family” of authors that you “select”. But of course, you don’t register your family—for better or for worse. And as much as I would like to be swayed by my best friend Jasleen and my best friend James to intellectual pursuits, the truth is that I was once shaped by the powers that be when I was a child and I am not. find out. And these days I’m closer to a final edit than a first draft.

The same is true with writing. With a quarter of my note Basic errors to go, I know that the book that inspired me the most is not on the shelf on my desk. In fact, I haven’t actually read it for some 20 years, and I often wish I hadn’t. I can’t say it’s a book for me would like. However, looking at me from my own words:

It’s been ten years since I left childhood and turned my back on what my parents said. […] I had an overdose of the public opiate and decided I wanted the real thing. I shook the dust off my feet at eighteen and tried to forget my childhood faith…

The following statement comes from the faith of my parents, taking the scriptures that I was raised to be true: 1 Corinthians 13:11 (“put away the things that are childish”) and Matthew 10: 14 (“the earth shakes at your feet”). Similar features are found on all pages of my book. Sometimes I have messed up or changed a passage, like I did in Matthew 16:26 as an argument for unbelief: “What is it to you if, in trying to win your soul, you lose the whole world?”

But I often find biblical images that come to me uninvited, and I record them in my words, asking for their sound and music. Jesus’ words about the inability of one man to serve two masters perfectly summed up the monomania of the addict when drugs took over everything. When I came to explain my youth’s constant lack of knowledge and understanding, Matthew 13 came to mind: ‘I have no eyes to see and no ears to hear.’ At a rough estimate, the book may have between 100 and 200 references to the Bible. I have no idea how much of it I remember.

I was raised to believe that a close relationship with the written word is essential to a person’s life.

When I first realized how much I was focusing on the Bible, I was scared. It seems that my memory of the scriptures has proven that all my efforts to repeat myself have failed. I have spent my entire adult life struggling to untangle my deep religious wiring and erase all memories of the religious person I used to be. When I was a junkie, often on the verge of death, I used to comfort myself without a sense of humor that could be worse: at least I am not an evangelical Christian.

I’ve long believed that my years of studying literature—with its tenets of skepticism, tolerance, and nuance—instilled in me the values ​​that defined my parents’ Bibles: dogma, prejudice, dualism. But what if I don’t clear my mind of crazy binaries and bitter comparisons – heaven/hell, good/evil, life/punishment – even more than I do in clearing the scriptures from memory. What if, after all, the gospel still lives in me like some demons?

I’ve always felt that I had an undocumented childhood – a fact I attribute to my parents. I can’t remember a book I loved as a child. If I had a family where books had a birthright, like the kids from the well-read, well-educated West London nurseries I met at university. Now, to be a reader, I had to fight almost to the death—because to be a reader in any serious way was to reject the whole system of my parents. , and the inevitable result in our relationship. Maybe that’s why books meant nothing to me until, at age 13, I discovered Kafka—and couldn’t imagine everything.

But after my initial panic, when I saw the evidence of the authority of the Bible staring at me from all sides of my book, I began to revise the story about my time. childhood that I held for a long time. Now, it is clear that my upbringing was not orthodox, although it was undoubtedly very strong document. Not only was the King James Bible and English literature—including Watts, Wesley and Cowper—my mother’s milk, I was also very familiar with the vocabulary and syntax of the English language and 18th century verse.

Most importantly, I was raised to believe that a close relationship with the written word can be the most important part of a person’s life. I’ve long envied those West London townhouses of my university colleagues, I don’t remember that—unlike some of them—I wasn’t taught to see books in the as a symbol of cultural heritage. or symbols of intelligence and taste, or the simple tools of a bourgeois lifestyle.

To this day, I almost worship the great book. What others call a spiritual experience, I understand, is a way of taking other times that the scriptures help me sometimes.

But I was brought up with the belief that books – or rather, The Book – contain the answers to life’s most important questions, and are repositories of all that is good. Reading can be as enjoyable as anything else in life – a way to meet the Holy Spirit – but never. alone a hobby or escape. Even calling reading a matter of life and death is an understatement, because its role in determining our eternal destiny is even more important in before that.

Until the age of 18, I read and heard the Bible read aloud almost every day. When I realized that I had lost faith after a long struggle, I quickly changed my respect for the literary canon to the literary canon. And when I came to take the opposite view of my parents on all important questions, in this way, their feelings for me were much deeper and more consequential than when they were recorded in speaking my beliefs. To this day, I almost worship the great book. What others call a spiritual experience, I understand, is a way of taking other times that the scriptures help me sometimes. I always look at reading as an important part of my idea of ​​a good life, and life without books is not worth living for me.

I am writing with two tablets on my desk. There is the first book, which is in all the books I intend to translate the version. And I like to think that there is something unknown, where I keep all the documents that shaped me as a person and as a writer before I knew what was happening.

And these days, I keep the Bible on two shelves.

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Original Sins: A Memoir by Matt Rowland Hill out now at Hanover Square Press.

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