A Little Magic for the Soul
Introduction by David Memmott
Why should we read imaginative literature at all, let alone books society-at-large might view as 'dangerous'? Doesn't Hollywood explode themes of the fantastic on the screen with convincing in-your-head special effects, larger-than-life heroes and nonstop action to keep you on the edge of your seat? Certainly. And it only takes two hours. Why spend so much time reading? Because, quite frankly, there aren't any shortcuts to enlightenment.
Books are the perfect interactive medium.
When you read a story or poem and enter its world, you are also entering your own inner world. The author must accomplish certain things in the prose, in the structure, in the character and setting, in the sensory detail, to guide you in. But once you are there it is your imagination in partnership with the author's which creates a world that cannot be experienced any other way. If the author fails as a guide, you put the book aside and pick up another. Each time you and the author succeed in this miracle of conjuring, the stronger you become in your ability to imagine. You have defeated ennui; you have defeated solipsism; you have taken one more step toward self-consciousness by refusing to follow the path of least resistance and passively allowing others to imagine for you. The ability to imagine is the key to healing the earth.
The best guides into the unknown territory of imagination are seldom those who can't or won't find their way off the Interstate. Finding the right guide makes all the difference. There will be an abundance of tourists following the path of least resistance to Disney World, but those more robust spirits - who hold out for a white-water float trip down a wild stretch of river in Oregon or come out of their tents at midnight to climb to the summit of Mount McKinley with headlamps lighting the way and crampons digging into her white flanks - take each of us to places we've never been before.
In a conference call with a creative writing class, I was recently asked what I most enjoy about writing fiction. My answer was the discovery. The journey of a good story is something like being dropped off in the middle of a wilderness and, though you possess a good sense of direction, you have no maps, no prior knowledge of the terrain. The steep narrow trail with loose footing, the best place to cross a river swollen with snowmelt, the way down from the precipitous dead-end cliff, facing down the wild animals that cross your path: all must be discovered, step by step, revealed along the way. A story or a poem that does not risk discovery by the author will most likely fail to engage us as readers and it is not always the guide with the newest gear, the biggest boat, the slickest ad or the largest bank account we trust to take us down the right path, through the dark wood to a place more felt than seen. Not every trip is for everybody, but what we offer here are some hardy excursions into lesser known territories and what a reader brings back, I hope, almost against odds in the mass-market-driven publishing world today, is a little magic for the soul.
Keep the mystery alive.
David Memmott, Editor/Publisher
Wordcraft of Oregon
La Grande, Oregon, December 2001