THE NEXT CHAP­TER

ON LIS­TEN­ING TO WHAT BOOKS HAVE TO SAY, AND KEEP­ING THE ONES THAT HAVE SPO­KEN TO YOU.

FLUX Hawaii - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - TEXT BY MATT DEKNEEF IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS BY MITCHELL FONG

When I left Hawai‘i to be a writer, my carry-on was or­ga­nized some­thing like this: a) Hawai‘i driver’s li­cense; b) re­ceipt of fi­nal pay­check from pre­vi­ous em­ployer, just in case it didn’t go through; c) four com­po­si­tion books brim­ming with empty pages wait­ing to be wildly scrib­bled in; d) those pa­per­backs with un­der­lined sen­tences that, at the time, meant ev­ery­thing to me.

When you’re re­lo­cat­ing your life, it can seem a waste to al­lo­cate pre­cious real es­tate in your lug­gage to Joan Did­ion’s The White Al­bum or Bruce Wag­ner’s I’m Los­ing You. My rea­son­ing was less sen­ti­men­tal, more plain and or­di­nary—th­ese books were for work, the work I was look­ing to get as a writer in Los An­ge­les.

But hav­ing those books also helped drive home this no­tion of my­self, the pro­tag­o­nist who loves a bad anal­ogy, mov­ing on to the next chap­ter of his life. I didn’t just want th­ese books—i needed them to keep me go­ing. I needed the high­lighted sen­tences that sparked re­al­iza­tion and recog­ni­tion, and the stray words that I had cir­cled to re­mind my­self to look up their mean­ings, as if cor­ralling them into my vo­cab­u­lary. I have this thing about for­get­ting, and I never want to for­get.

Some­times it feels like I could rip out all the pages I’ve ever made a no­ta­tion on and sta­ple them to­gether into a sin­gle cryp­tic, sa­cred text. Of course, in re­al­ity, how rude! Cruel! Like pick­ing only the parts of peo­ple you en­joy and dis­card­ing the rest— keep­ing the quick wit of a friend who con­sis­tently makes you laugh over pūpū, but not the part where she’s rou­tinely late for the reser­va­tion. The im­por­tant books al­ways feel like peo­ple to me, like some­one I want to be around. You need the whole to truly un­der­stand them. You need to dis­cover that turn of phrase that leaves you un­done, won­der­ing, how’d she do that? You need the word that per­sists even af­ter you’ve moved on to the next page, fill­ing some small cav­ity in you with enor­mous feel­ing.

Four years af­ter haul­ing th­ese books across the Pa­cific Ocean, the pa­per­backs went into an­other suit­case, this one headed back to Hawai‘i. While un­pack­ing in Honolulu, I flipped through them again. Ev­ery time I en­coun­tered some­thing I had marked, it took me to ex­actly where and who I was when I did so. Show me the jerky line in Glam­orama by Bret Eas­ton El­lis, and I can tell you I was in the pas­sen­ger seat of a car headed to Kame­hameha Bak­ery at 5:30 in the morn­ing. Turn to the med­ley of ex­cla­ma­tion points be­side the clos­ing para­graphs of White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and I’m there out­side the old Barnes and Noble at Ka­hala Mall, sit­ting in the stair­well with the best out­door light­ing at 9 p.m., un­able to move un­til I read the last page.

I re­turned to old books and notes many times my first week on O‘ahu, try­ing to pin down who I once was through words glow­ing in faded high­lighter, and rec­on­cil­ing this past iden­tity with who I am to­day. Grow­ing up in Hawai‘i, the idea that you have to leave in or­der to do any­thing cre­ative is in­stilled early. But some­how, upon my re­turn home, those pen­cil-scrib­bled mark­ings cen­tered me. They be­came the most pe­cu­liar and un­ex­pected re­minder that maybe we’re all books that can un­fold any­where. I moved back to Hawai‘i to be a writer, and I brought those books with me.

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