Friday, August 6, 2010

You hung the moon in a big empty sky

In partial response to one of yesterday's comments, I'd like to revisit the quote I used from Stephen King's short story, "The Body." Having been a King fan for something like 30 years, I tend to assume everyone realizes that this story was the basis for the movie Stand By Me.  If you didn't know that, you do now.  And if you haven't seen the movie, you may wish to do that also, because it is awesome whether you read the story or not. (The short story collection Different Seasons is where you'll find "The Body." You will find in that same collection "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," upon which the movie The Shawshank Redemption was based. Again, if you haven't seen the movie, you're missing out.)

The line I used yesterday is just a snippet from the opening paragraph of "The Body," which I quoted because that one tiny bit seemed most pertinent to what I had to say. What I have on my fridge, however, is the entire opening paragraph of the story:
The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.
The first time I read the story, that opening sentence paralyzed me. By the time I got to the end of the paragraph, I had tears in my eyes. I copied that paragraph word by word, longhand, into my journal*, like I was writing words of power into a magic spell book. It wasn't just the meaning of the words themselves that shook me, although King had put into words something I had, up until that moment, felt but found inexpressible. (I know you all know what I mean.) It was also the realization that at least one other human being understood how I felt, at least well enough to put it into words for a fictional character.

I could talk forever about the different layers of reasons this paragraph has meant so much to me over the years, because what I take from it has varied and continues to vary depending on what's on my mind or happening in my life. But the first thing it meant was that I wasn't alone. Back in those much younger days, that was huge.

The other huge thing was the crystallization of the understanding that words can be immensely powerful. And if I hadn't entirely realized yet that I wanted to be a writer, I did then.

I would love to hear if anyone else has a quote (or story or poem) that holds a similar place of importance in his or her life.

*I have been collecting quotes since before I had a refrigerator. Pre-refrigerator, I used a spiral notebook.

1 comment:

sherrylynn said...

I love your blog i'm new to blogging and I know I will learn alot from you.