my good luck book

I have a lot of books in my house. This is nothing special and neither am I. I’m just saying, I have some books. And then I have some special books, which have certain properties by means of which I might give my mind a jump start, on days when its energy is drained by life’s more pedestrian concerns. Books which impart creative inspiration, is my point.

Among these special books are any of several by William Faulkner, Plainsong by Kent Haruf, The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the somewhat more obscure Omensetter’s Luck by William H. Gass.

The latter is not well known, but I would contend that it is a work of sublime inventiveness. I mean this guy filled his writing table with helium and took off, and went strange places in his mind and mine, and did not give a damn – we can presume – for marketing.

The book came out in 1966, and I picked up my copy in Chico about 20 years later, and have kept it close to hand ever since. It reminds me that the rules of writing were – despite all contradictory evidence in my work – made to be bent by lesser writers than myself. I was born to shatter them. Someday.

Upon the beach Henry Pimber rested, passing five white carefully gathered stones from hand to hand. He could not see his face where it had fallen in the water. Omensetter’s darkened house stood in his head amid clipped grass. Cold dew struck him and the sound of water in the dusk, soft and distant, like slow steps that reach through sleep, possessed him. The man was more than a model. He was a dream you might enter. From the well, in such a dream, you could easily swing two brimming buckets. In such water an image of the strength of your arms would fly up like the lark to its singing. Such birds, in such a dream, would speed with the speed of your spirit through its body where, in imitation of the air, flesh has turned itself to meadow. The pebbles fell, one by one, to the sand. Henry struggled with the urge to turn his head. Instead he bent and picked the pebbles up. The moon appeared. The pebbles were the softest pearls — like sweetest teeth. And Lucy’s lamp went through his house and climbed the stairs. He flung the stones. They circled out, taking the light. One sank in the water’s edge; one clicked on a greater stone; one found the sand; another brushed the marsh weeds. The last lay at his feet like a dead moth. He drove home slowly for a clouding moon.