We all know libraries are great resources for writing. What isn’t always considered, however, is the intense power of archives for creative writers. What separates archives from the rest of the materials kept in libraries is that the vast majority of archival materials are unpublished. We can only truly know them, the stories they contain, the bits of brilliant light, by spending some time with them. Though we know archives as essential to the fact-finding part of research, not everyone sees them as essential to the creative part. But there are stories in archives, stories waiting to be told, and wading through the records for these gems is the tragically beautiful part of archival research.
“Music definitely informs my writing process. I played the piano throughout my youth and still do. I also played the French horn throughout high school and college, and I thought that was going to be my life—I thought I’d become a band director. That could’ve been a great life, but then in college, English got me, so I started down this road, and ended up double-majoring in English and history. But still, I love music. It’s probably one of the art forms we’re most comfortable with; it just informs so much of our lives. We sing along to the radio without thinking about it. But if we investigate those songs that matter to us? That can be a rich vein of material.”
In 1881, while wandering the woods near their Spring Valley, Wisconsin home, brothers William and George Vanasse spotted a small creature scurry into a hole. The boys gave chase, prodding the hole with a stick until the stick slipped, then listening as it clattered far below. Curious, the young adventurers returned to their hole the following day, and after securing a rope to a nearby tree, descended into darkness. Guided by lantern light, their shadows swelled along the cool limestone walls until at last their feet touched solid ground.
Not long after reading David Shields’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, still high on its rallying cry for emotion over narrative, concision over Great American Novel bloat, I came across :: kogonada’s work. In his visual essays I discovered the cinematic version of what Shields called “the folk tradition in action: finding new uses for things by selecting the parts that move you and discarding the rest.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible, Song of Solomon is one of the five wisdom books in the Old Testament. However, this book doesn’t teach wisdom, at least not in the traditional sense. It teaches erotic love and intimacy.