Her tea basket was still lost, but that didn't seem to matter now. People used to eat loose tea on long journeys. They'd pack it into hard little cakes they'd pull out later, to gnaw on while they warmed their hands by a fire. The tea provided physical sustenance, but it was also considered good for the soul.
You could use a moth like that as a symbol in a novel, but it was trite, wasn't it? The old moth-to-the-flame image had been used and used again. It was the stuff of amateur poetry. And she, having so little experience crafting a story, would be the most in danger of falling into trite approaches. If she wrote a novel, it probably would be about her father. And the male Luna moth would haunt its pages. Everyone would recognize the work as that of a first novelist. 'She wrote about herself through the lens of her father.' The really good novelists, Laura thought, put their fathers, and maybe their mothers too, deeper into the stories. Which, she suddenly thought, might redeem Melville just the littlest bit.
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Maybe Laura's real problem came in admitting this: there was nothing new under the sun. To write a story would be, somehow deep down, to embrace her limits, to admit that, indeed, she would someday die-if not of a worm or a ceiling, then of something else. The very nature of a story admitted this reality. To be a writer was to say, yes, I am just another Murasaki, and it is quite possible that no one will remember my name.
Had Mary Shelley fretted so? Maybe yes, maybe no. She'd begun her classic work on a dare. Had culled a dream to bring it into being. But it was not lost on Laura that the story might be a prolonged exercise in Shelley's personal terrors. The subtitle of the work was 'Prometheus Unbound, ' and Laura wondered if Shelley herself was not Prometheus in the form of the wandering monster, who desperately sought love and acceptance but was ultimately driven to face an icy landscape that seemed almost fantastical-the way our own subconscious could be, white and frozen-slippery.
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This is what Laura loved about literature. You could see things in it that perhaps weren't there, but might be. And even that didn't matter if, in the end, readers needed something to be there. They could bring their somethings to a text, as co-creators, embedding a needed reality in the story that, if it was flexible enough, would allow new threads to take their place beside the author's.
If Laura was so prolific with poems, and in truth she was, then what was the problem with Megan's request? Couldn't Laura, with a little doing, keep stringing together line after line of words and construct, in time, a novel? It seemed logical, but there was the matter of finding an idea and sustaining it. Only fire could do that. The fire of rebellion. Mario Vargas Llosa had not used the term 'fire' exactly, but rather had discussed the presence of 'seditious roots' that could 'dynamite the world' the writer inhabited. He claimed that writing stories was an exercise in freedom and quarreling-out-and-out rebellion, whether or not the writer was conscious of it. And this rebellion, Vargas Llosa reminded his readers, was why the Spanish Inquisition had strictly censored works of fiction, prohibiting them for three hundred years in the American colonies.
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