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Matthew Dicks: Imaginer

18 July 2014

At our book club meeting in the library yesterday, we had the pleasure of hearing from the author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, our novel for this month.  We got to ask the author questions and many also shared personal experiences people about themselves, their children & imaginary friends.

Some interesting moments –

Describing his writing process, Matthew said, for example, that he himself did not know for sure what the epilogue meant. Shall write the next two sentences in white, highlight if you wish to read. In one interpretation, Budo has died and meets Dee, who has also died, in some kind of afterlife or heaven. In another interpretation, Dee had not died and Budo has become the imaginary friend of Dee.

In either case, the author said he was not really sure which it was but left the option open in the event of a sequel. Bob who hosts the discussion group found it puzzling that the author could be unsure of what his own writing meant but Matthew insisted it was the case. Bob took a straw poll in the room – 12 people favored the first interpretation, 2 the second and 2 abstained. Matthew said that he agreed with the 2 who abstained. He said that when he writes a book, he is also finding out what happens just as if he were reading the book. I saw Khiyali nodding emphatically. She is writing a novel right now and the discussion was most interesting to her when it concerned details of the writing process.

More interestingly he said that he finished the book on a Thursday night, had a small celebration with his wife and went to sleep. Friday morning he woke up with the epilogue in mind and wrote it down. He says this is not the way he normally writes – it was unusual in this case for the lines to come to him this way but they did and he added them. More interesting still was that apparently publishers in the UK and Turkey did not like the epilogue and he had to convince them to keep it by indicating that there might be a sequel and for that the epilogue was crucial.

Considering that he is a teacher in active duty, everyone wondered when he found time to write and if he ever suffered from writer’s block.  He said that he had several books / screenplays going simultaneously and if he didn’t have an idea for one he would work on another.  He also mentioned that if he got a break for 10 minutes while his kids were bathing, he could write three good sentences in those ten minutes.  (That is a skill I would certainly love to have.  I can think wonderful sentences even in seconds, but to write I need stretches of time.)  He also mentioned that he gets up before dawn.

On the writing process he also mentioned that when Max leaves Mrs. Patterson’s house and picks up the little box of coins, he doesn’t know why he did it. Matthew had not apparently planned how Budo / Max would use that box, at the time of writing that Max picked it up.

It is almost as if he has a muse, isn’t it?

What surprised me about this was that the box played a role not merely in alerting the parents and getting them to open the door – surely there could have been other ways to do that, but throwing the box is a moment that allows us to feel kind towards Tommy Swindon, whom we have never liked so far. He changes from the boy who threatens Max to the boy who plays a role in saving him after all. Perhaps it also raises the question of what Tommy Swindon is trying to escape, even if his act of vandalism was not in self-defense.

When my turn came I asked, “Does this novel raise the question of whether we are all imaginary?”

The author allowed for that possibility. He also mentioned that he was a reluctant atheist, wanting to believe but never quite believing.

Funny because at one point Budo considers that Max is a kind of a God, in that Budo came from Max’s mind. So as some texts characterize god as a Judge, Rewarder, Punisher, and some as a Father or Mother or Designer, this one suggests that God is the Imaginer. Remind you of any Gods you’ve come across? (Krishna / Vishnu, imagining the world. Or you could look at the address on the letter Jane receives in “Our Town” where after city, state and country it goes on to mention the solar system, universe and finally, “The Mind of God.”

If Matthew Dicks is searching to believe, he may wish to consider the answer offered by the Chandogya Upanishad “Tat Tvam Asi.” You are That. That = That which you seek. After all he is the Imaginer.  (And the Imagined.)

As he swiftly reminded me when I commented that there is no redeeming value to Mrs. Patterson. Suddenly he was no longer the post-modern author he made himself out to be in the earlier part of the discussion. “I know Mrs. Patterson better than you!”

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend author Matthew Dicks at work. He spoke to the Bel Air Library Fiction Discussion Group about his writing process.

 

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