Last week, artist Randy Regier sent an email to a group of friends, explaining a recent visit to a bookstore in Columbia, MO. His story gave me more than a few goosebumps, and I immediately told him as much. His reply? “Books matter.”
I’m sharing the email as a Monday morning reinforcement. Books matter.
(Precedent: While returning to Wichita from Illinois this week with NuPenny in tow I had a major vehicle mechanical failure near Columbia, Missouri. For two days I stayed in a motel while a very decent group of local mechanics tried to get me back on the road. On day two, deeply dispirited by the extensive cost of repairs and seemingly never-ceasing uncertainty of the artistic path, I insisted of myself that I go for a long walk about the town of Columbia and open my mind and heart to the necessity of being open to receiving a sign that what I am doing is ‘right.’)
When I was about ten years old I read a novel about a young boy (Northern Europe, island) who, while exploring an oceanside cave during low-tide discovered the remains of a Viking ship, complete with a skeleton, helmet, sword, all that. That book—and the cover illustration—is my first memory of desire. If you are receiving this email it’s no mystery to you that the experience of that story is what I attempt to return to and manifest in my art, over and over again.
For that past 30 years I could not recall the title or author of that book, only the sensation, the cover illustration and the basic narrative conceit. As I have lived across the country, at each town I have visited the library or bookstore and interviewed the librarians and sellers, describing the book in painstaking detail, but never with any success. It had gotten to the point where I was losing faith that I had ever actually read that book and that perhaps it never had existed at all, and that I had in fact generated it as a phantom memory to substantiate my ‘mature’ practice. This was very troubling to me.
Tuesday at noon I was on my knees at Yellow Dog Bookshop in Columbia, holding the book I have attached here. And almost in tears. I found it on the very bottom of a stack of paperbacks in a category marked, simply “Pulps.”
$3.25 with tax.
My first love was real and true, and I have the proof I’ve longed for for over thirty years.