My favourite writer on the internet is Matt Gemmell, by far. How does a former software engineer who now writes full-time write so well? Significant talent and untold amounts of effort and hard work most likely play a large part.
Gemmell has recently published an eBook titled Raw Materials, comprising selected essays from his personal blog, updated with authors notes and includes an additional piece written specifically for this collection. After picking up (well…downloading) the book on the day of release, a rainy Saturday seemed perfect to proceed from cover to digital cover.
Many of these intensely personal essays recount memories of a childhood perhaps not unlike many others. Where the real power lies in this collection is not from the content alone, rather, the feelings which inevitably surface as you read. Some may make you squirm a little; perhaps say “ah…yes!”; some may change your entire mood – and to me, that is great writing.
Although the specific events, family situation and upbringing described in these stories could not have been further from my own, similar feelings, emotions and fears were (are) all there, somewhere, though manifest differently in adulthood.
Gemmell sure knows they are still there, as he writes in Paths:
And if you glance over your shoulder, well… you won’t see anything. But your own memories are there nonetheless.
Believe me, many times during Raw Materials, you will find yourself glancing over your shoulder. Not intentionally, but inadvertently, sometimes surprisingly so. With these glances come fear (Staying Afraid); sensory engagement through smells of “dryness and age” (Stories); and innocent optimism where your wish might just come true – just this once (Wishes). Then there is the physical or emotional pain we all feel and recall all too readily (Relative).
It’s. All. There. And this man knows exactly how to write about it. In an utterly compelling way. Every time.
It matters not that our childhoods were markedly different, a decade or so apart, on opposite sides of the world. We are not so different Matt and I, nor are we different to countless others who grow up with memories so indelibly burned into our consciousness (or subconsciousness as the case may be).
Those memories are always there, whether we allow ourselves to engage them or not.
I highly recommend this short but powerful collection of essays. They are written with such clarity and precision, you cannot help but join Gemmell on his “travels” back to those moments where these very memories were made. It is also inevitable your thoughts will turn to the end product of such memories. You. Today.
Years whip by when your back is turned, leaving you standing on familiar streets that are nevertheless unsettlingly different. We all have troubling experiences hidden inside, and they shape us more than we realise. The news brings us fresh fears every day. The future is uncertain, and it’s coming whether you like it or not.
Authors notes – Whispers
Raw Materials is available now from Amazon, though I’d suggest first visiting mattgemmell.com, adding it to your bookmarks or RSS feed, then clicking through to Amazon for your copy of the collection (AUD$3.72).
Matt Gemmell’s debut novel Changer will be published later this year, and if there were already a queue, I would be in it.Follow @petedenison