Desert rock landscape.
By: Lorna Kieckhefer
On a windy Saturday morning in late October, the air was brisk but unseasonably calm. I stood on top of a small hill in the heart of Utah’s Zion National Park, watching the soft fall sun warm my face and my aching, swollen joints. I was surrounded by vast expanses of green grasses and tall evergreens of the kind so common in Utah, and also by the remnants of sandstone. The land here is so flat that the horizon bends to the contour of the earth, as the angle of the air changes, so does the angle of the view.
I felt lucky to be in the company of someone else who knew that feeling—someone else who was standing at the same spot, on the same hill, watching the same sun rise.
I felt both alone and unalone. I felt fortunate to have a partner, but not so privileged to have found such a partner.
I was in the company of a friend, but not of my friends.
I was in a place I loved, but not a place I would wish to spend time in by myself.
The last time I had been here, the autumn was still in its autumnal bloom. I was still the owner of two-hundred-plus pounds of unbridled enthusiasm. I had never before seen a place look so beautiful, or felt my heart beat so hard. I knew exactly what I was going to write when I got home.
Now I was standing on a hill in an autumn when the leaves were changing, and I was trying not to think about the fact that I would never have this chance again.
I knew I wouldn’t be writing that article. I would never write another story.
If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know I write essays. I write essays in my head at the same time I write fiction. If you’ve read my reviews, you know that I tend to find the difference between the two to be as vast as the distance between the surface of the moon and the planet Jupiter.
I write about books because I love them.
I love the way they make me think.
I love the way they make me feel.
I love the way they make me dream.
What is fiction? How does it make you feel?
I know the difference between the two, but sometimes the lines are a bit blurry for me.
I’ve had this happen before.
Years ago, I wrote a very long review of The Hobbit for my local paper. I wrote it as a young man and when I looked at it now, it is all but incoherent. It’s all the same characters. It’s the same events. All of that.
I had a great time, but I was not a writer at the time.
I had no business writing that review.
I knew that before I ever started to write it.
I knew that I would regret it.
I never read that review.
The same thing happened in the past week.
I reviewed The Hobbit. Again.
The difference was I was not a young man. I was a man.
A man who was writing because he had no idea if he was a writer.
A man who was writing because he loved it.
I was writing about the way a book makes me think.
I didn’t understand that when I first began, so I didn’t think I was doing the review. I thought I was writing about what The Hobbit was like.
It turns out I was wrong.
Because fiction and non-fiction are different.
I should have known that. I think I knew that.
I didn’t care.
I kept writing because I loved the book.
That’s the biggest difference between a reader and a writer.
I keep my words. I keep my words on paper. I write because I love them.
I read because I love them. I loved The Hobbit and I wrote it. I want to see it come to the screen, so I wrote it. I want to hear the audio, so I wrote it.
That’s my problem with a lot of the book review world.
There is no reason a writer shouldn’t write reviews.
Just like there is no reason a reader shouldn’t read reviews.
I’m not a writer. I know that.
But I love books. I love books with words in them. I love books and I love words.
So why shouldn’t I read and write a book review?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure.
A story can be told differently, a book can be told differently.
How much different can it be?
I think, if I were to write a review of The Hobbit, I wouldn’t do it as a straight recap. I wouldn’t just read the book and then talk about it.
I’d try to be a bit more interesting.
To be a little bit of a writer.
I’m not sure if that’s what you want me to do.
Maybe it’s not the job.
In the back of my head, I wondered whether it was possible.
I’d try. I’d try my best.
I don’t know why I wasn’t more confident. It’s just not something I think about a lot. It’s just not something that is a focus of my life.
If it’s in my blood, I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to write a book.
If I say I will do it, I mean it. If I want it to happen, it happens.
It seems too easy. It just seems too simple.
Why not just write a book review, I wonder.
What will I find out about writing that I’m not going to find out if I don’t do it?
I can never just think about it without something else happening. I’m always doing something else and I’m never sitting still and I’m never thinking.
So maybe I should just write a book review and see where it goes.
If I’m not satisfied, I’ll write more.
If I don’t write, I’ll write reviews of the reviews.
I have a lot of time to write. I have a lot of time to do lots of things.
So maybe it’s better that way.
But I just can’t make it happen.
Maybe I can’t do it because I’m lazy.
That’s probably true.
I just can’t make it happen.
In the last year, I’ve had so many things happen that I’ve not been able to make any of them happen.
Because in some cases, I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried and it’s never worked.
It has never worked.
But maybe, this time, this time, I will make it