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creating obsessive beauty

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matt davis, complex personage

I happen to be a voracious reader. I would probably write more if I didn’t read so much. One thing I’ve noticed is the tendency to obsess on a single writer’s work: someone or something will turn me on to a specific author, I’ll read one of his or her works, and immediately want to read everything they’ve ever done. On occasion I accomplish this, but sometimes the task is simply too great.

Currently I’m on an Arthur C. Clarke (CBE) trip, embarking with Childhood’s End after recently finishing Rendezvous with Rama. To be honest these purchases were inspired by Clarke’s death in March of 2008, when I remembered how he changed my life while a freshman in high school.

It’s pretty interesting how we remember things, especially points in time that present themselves as an immediate recollection, almost painting-like in their clarity. When I first was assigned the task of reading the novel 2001 as a freshman in the remote western mountains of North Carolina, there was some sort of stencil work done on my brain. I recall a very specific day in that classroom, noticing the green of a fresh blackboard, where I was so incredibly thrilled with this fantastic view into the Universe, that I immediately picked up 2010 and kept reading. Probably it was two or three years before I saw the accompanying films.

Then there was William Gibson. I read Neuromancer and was completely hooked: I went through a barrage of Gibson novels right in a row, staying up late into the night when I should have been practicing, but instead being sucked into fantasies of Black Ice and the fast paced action of transient networks and cyberpunk, reality TV and a California civil war, popular meme-based advertising and terrorist plots – the language and ideas all resonate with me strongly.

But perhaps this was all an extension of my admitted affairs with the art and writings of William S. Burroughs and Paul Bowles (his Wikipedia entry curiously devoid of photographs); authors whose catalog I have yet to extinguish but to whose prose I am drawn. Bowles holds a special place with me because I really got into his compositions for voice, singing many of them in recitals. My next multi-book adventure will be The Red Night Trilogy, parts of which I’ve read and even adapted to music.

I’m not sure what it is, but perhaps others have the same sort of drive I do, to explore authors and artists to whatever extent necessary. This leads me to wonder whether these types of minds will always exist, regardless of what we think ‘technology’ is doing to our ability to appreciate non-technical forms of expression. Just because our mediums change doesn’t mean the human spirit has lost the ability to create beauty.