I was going to write about what I've been reading of late, but this isn't the day for that. Today is a day of losses.
First of all, my deepest sympathies are with the Outzs and Jasper families for their losses, and my thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times.
One of my favorite authors from back when I was a kid, Brian Jacques died today. He was 71 years old. My sympathies likewise go to his family and friends.
I first picked up Redwall (1986) when I was in the fifth grade and got that "coming home" feeling that you get from a really good book. I read the subsequent series voraciously after that, and while not all of the books were winners, several others gave me that same feeling. I read several of them time after time; after The Hobbit, Redwall is my most-read book, with twelve readings to date.
I met Mr. Jacques once, in 1998 or '99, at an author signing at Books & Co.'s original location in Dayton, OH. (I wouldn't normally mention the location like this, but this is a local bookstore I strongly support. They do good stuff.) When he asked for a copy of Redwall to read aloud from, dozens and scores of copies were held up high in offering ... but he chose mine. And when you're thirteen years old and a fanboy like that, having your property touched by one of your idols is a Big Deal.
I remember that Mr. Jacques talked about Good versus Evil, and how Good must and does necessarily triumph over Evil, or else the Hitlers and Stalins and Cluny the Scourges of the world would already have won. Even though I'm older now and embrace the very human moral ambiguity that has come with modern fantasy ... after watching the news and hearing about all the bad that's happening, the inevitable triumph of Good is a comforting notion.
Though he'd sold millions of copies worldwide and had an army of avid followers, Mr. Jacques seemed like a really nice guy who enjoyed what he did and who really liked his audience. I hope I'm that lucky someday.
I first heard of Mr. Jacques in an interview I read in 1994, where he encouraged young writers to describe everything as though you were trying to tell the story to a blind person. While years later, I learned to be sparing with adjectives and adverbs, lest they clutter your prose, I think there's still some merit in Mr. Jacques's advice, and his own success speaks for itself.
Though several other factors contributed, I'm willing to submit that I probably wouldn't be writing today if not for Brian Jacques. I don't know what it was, but somehow, reading his books -- and reading them when I did -- gave me the gumption that said I could create my own world, I could fill it with dynamic characters and epic adventure, and that I could, though trial and error, make my visions come to life. Thank you, Mr. Jacques, for that initial inspiration.
Requiescat in pace.