The Night of the Living Un-Read: Michael Dilts enters our contest

(Here Billy Holder, our IT guru, conducts a search at A Word with You Press) Literati! We have about four more entries yet to post in our contest Once Upon a Time, which, yes, should all have been published by the first of June. I saw a spike in the number of people who tuned …

(Here Billy Holder, our IT guru, conducts a search at A Word with You Press)

Literati!

We have about four more entries yet to post in our contest Once Upon a Time, which, yes, should all have been published by the first of June. I saw a spike in the number of people who tuned in on that day to see who the semi-finalists were, only to discover we (Moi) missed the deadline. That spike was like a wooden stake to my heart, but my encouraging staff (thank you, Tiffany) at The Word has helped dislodge it so that I am now free to post our remaining stories and get back on track, as long as I avoid the full moon. It must seem such arrogance to have neglected my duties, and disregard for you, and I do apologize. Favorite Leonard Cohen line “If I have been untrue, I hope you know, it was never to you.”  Simply stated, I was overwhelmed by the perfect storm of this contest, the crossing of the pond of James V. Joyce, and running the SUCCESSFUL Kickstarter campaign to see that one of us, Fred Rivera, will become a published author.

I am particularly delighted with this prologue provided by occasional-visitor here, Michael Dilts, because every indication is that this piece is our one-and-only non-fiction entry. (Oh! Wait!…I see another non-fiction piece pinned to the cork-board!) Variety is the vice of life! Thanks for this, Michael. Here is the prologue to

The Proprietor

by Michael R. Dilts

 

Acquiring a book is more than a simple economic transaction. A pound of butter? A loaf of bread? Straightforward purchases involving nothing more complex than the market principles of supply and demand. But a book – now that is a much more delicate negotiation, one that requires an emotional commitment and leads to a long-term intellectual relationship. For once a book is read, it cannot be unread!

A bookstore, back when such institutions still existed, was more like a temple or church than a supermarket. It was a sacred space with printed stock displayed in reverent rows like living avatars of the divine. Back then, the bookseller was a minister bestowing the final holy blessing on the union of mind with mind. “What words have joined together, let no man put asunder.” It was a special calling, a vocation, which not all merchants, and not all merchandise, if truth be told, were suited to fulfill.

There were some books that you read to fill time. You would find them at the newsstand and snack on them while waiting for your bus or airplane. There were the volumes you would seek out in the reference library to consult for techniques and timelines, dates and data. And then there were the books that found you. They called to you from an unfamiliar part of the city, from a street you had never seen before, from a little shop you never knew existed. And there, among the crystals and candles and mysterious paraphernalia, you would be accosted by a text that challenged your safe little citadel of common sense and literally changed your afterlife.

And if you followed the mysterious call and sought out such literary rabbit holes, the places you ended up, back when such entities still existed, were no more like the corner newsstands than cathedrals are like wayside shrines. The air was subtly different when you crossed the threshold. The light worked in unexpected ways, as if you had been inserted into a universe lying at an angle just slightly divergent from the one familiar to you.The name painted on the front window of such a place might have the word “metaphysical” in it. Sometimes it might have the words “new age,” as if there was ever a point in history which was not “new” compared with what came before – as if the gigantic gears of time keep sticking and then jump suddenly forward all at once rather than churning on invisibly from one hour to the next before our eyes.

In fact, there was never anything particularly “new” about metaphysics. It is as old as philosophy, as old as science. Aristotle himself called it the “first philosophy” – the study of the ultimate causes of things, the prime movers which give structure and form to observable essences. The librarians of Rhodes were the ones who first dismissed the “first philosophy” as the “meta physics” – the scrolls which were filed “next to” Aristotle’s more practical writings on the “physics,” on the “things brought forth” by nature. Than as now, it was so much more convenient to limit one’s attention to the tangible and visible rather than to ask the larger questions. “Where does all of this come from?” “Why is it here?” “What will eventually become of it?” Ask any modern scientist.

But there have always been inquiring minds who are unafraid to enter the labyrinth of the unseen. And back when there were still metaphysical bookstores to be found, they would find them. And they would look for answers among the incense-smelling shelves.  But there were no books or shelves or incense without the chooser and procurer of the sacred merchandise, the high priest or priestess of hidden knowledge, the hierophant pointing the way between the pillars of wisdom, the willing servant of truth in all of its variegated forms – the Proprietor.

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B.C.  (Before Computers)

8 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Delightful Michael, absolutely delightful. I wrote a review and it didn’t capture it, so I’ll just applaud your work.

  2. I think this is the first entry I’ve read where I honestly have no idea who the protagonist is. Simultaneously, I feel free to imagine the protagonist to be literally anybody.

    The descriptive nature of this entry is also something I really appreciate. I walked into every phrase like it was a room- every paragraph like it was a house and I really really enjoyed that.

    I think that this is a beautiful way to pay homage to the written word and purveyors thereof, while at the same time inviting us to consume your story like food. This is a great start!
    .

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    There is a rich and delectable verbiage which is an enchanting journey through a more gracious time replaced by the time expediency of first the super bookstores and now the electronic, digital, gigabyte-clouds of sterility. “The Proprietor” allows us to remember wooden shelves and time moving at our own pace as if we are home.

    Progress sadly erases elegance and sensitivities in favor of profit and expediency. We have to look no further than the loss of mystical bookstores, personal, full of discoveries to feel less human than we once were. “You’ve Got Mail” noted the end of the age of such neighborhood treasures, but today the publishing business is turning digital without soul for most part.

    I therefore applaud both Mr. Dilts and A Word With You Press for making the transition without losing both the feeling of family and the heritage of literature.

  4. Michael Stang says:

    The writing is a master’s craft that, after considerable debate among those in the know decided to exhibit the art under glass and a guard at the door. Something so fine-tuned tells me the edits, the work group, the doubts hopes and charity, have all finished. I can read but not touch, and that’s okay with me. What would I say that could improve this gem.

    As one who dabbles, my writer’s heart went with you at the first line. Not a care in the world of risky business or treachery at the end. There was none but for the promise of the story.

  5. Aha!

    This is a treat:)

    The main difference between show vs tell is always when someone manages to craft prose that, defying the usual demand for description, like abstract art, allows you to fill-in-the-blanks yourself.

    I remember realising this magic for the first time when I devoured a new Stephen King release, his dark post-apocalyptic tale “The Stand” and then discovered that I knew exactly what all the characters looked like, after searching in vain for a description of said characters in the actual book. I even suspect that that exact experience might have been the moment when I decided that I wanted to make magic like that someday. To engage the readers mind in such a subtle way that the reader didn’t even realise such hook-ups were happening in the secret bones of the story.

    In any case, you’ve demonstrated that technique perfectly here, to my delight. It’s a bit like finding a childhood toy and re-discovering it all over again.

    Great start.

    Fond regards,

    Shawna

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