I wanna build something that’s gonna outlive me. ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)
Today, in the States, it is Memorial Day. This is a holiday set aside to remember and honor persons who have died while serving in the military. But as this day approached, I got to thinking about memorials in general, and the ones we are each creating for and of ourselves, as writers and readers.
Some of us are writers. As writers, our work is our memorial. The thing we will leave in this life when we have passed on. Having published a book (and hopefully more in the future), I am comforted by the fact that a little piece of me will live on even after I am no longer walking this earth. Even if my computer crashes or this all ends in some dystopian future, all files lost, words stored in ones and zeros gone forever, there is still a bound stack of paper out there with my name on it. It’s a physical thing that I made that can outlive me. Ezra Blazer, the aged writer character in Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry states, “Everyone’s hourglass [is] running down…As soon as you are born the sand starts falling and only by demanding to be remembered do you stand a chance of it being upturned again and again.” Through the pages we write, we demand to be remembered. Our memory lives on through our words, the characters and worlds we create. And each time someone opens that book and flips through the pages, the writer’s hourglass is “upturned again”. Later in Halliday’s book, another character states, “Maybe I thought that by writing things down, inking out a record of my existence, I was counteracting my…my disappearance. My erasure.” The idea of being erased from this world is quite terrifying. But by recording your existence through your writing, a part of you will never be erased. Even our pages that remain unpublished, be them files on the computer or those scribbled in a journal, are memorials to who we are, or were as the case may be. We have left a mark on the world to assure we do not disappear even after we are gone.
A greater number of us, however, are readers. And even though we collect and consume the words of others, this in itself is building a memorial. As readers, we create libraries which, after we are gone, serve as memorials not only to the time we spent reading and the worlds we explored in that time, but also to who we were as readers and people. In The House of Paper, Carlos Maria Dominguez writes, “To build up a library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.” Not only are we building up a life for ourselves in the books we read and collect, but we are building a memorial to that life through those books. Granted, we all come across books that we don’t connect with or we don’t relate to. But those typically aren’t kept. They are passed on or thrown out so as not to take up space on the shelf, better left to more deserving tomes, works that truly represent us. The books we keep, however, the ones we read and reread and love, they say a lot about who we are. A person’s bookshelves can show how they’ve grown over the years. It shows who they are at their very core, what they cherish most of all, what they long to be, and how they want to be remembered. Reading is a private endeavor. Even when done in the most public of places, the reader escapes into the world of the book alone. When we see where a person chooses to escape to, we come to understand who that person really is. Therefore, better than any picture of ourselves, our bookshelves serve as memorials of our truest being.
So, take this holiday to consider the memorial you are building for yourself. Whether it be in writing or reading…how will you be remembered?
About The Author – Megan Clancy
Megan Clancy is a writer, reader, and overall lover of literature. And now, she’s added ‘mom’ to her resume. She earned both her BA and Master’s degrees in Creative Writing. She was a middle school and high school English teacher before leaving the classroom to focus on her writing and start a family. In 2018, she published her first novel, The Burden of a Daughter, and gave birth to her first child. She lives in California with her husband and son.
To learn more about Megan’s writing, visit her author website here.
To purchase Megan’s novel, The Burden of a Daughter, click here.
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