People always like to yammer about how a book changed their life. Usually, it's just hyperbole and enthusiasm. But Paper Shredders: An Anthology of Surf Writing, edited by Long Beach poet and surf bum G. Murray Thomas and Killer Dana Surf Shop owner Gary Wright, changed my life. No joke.
It was 1993 when the tall, beach-scraggled Thomas wandered into the bookstore I was working at with copies for us to sell. The book had a bright-orange paper cover and a glued spine. The pages had been printed out on a laser printer. It was a small, DIY sort of freedom—local poets, people you could meet and know, being featured in a book whose creation wasn't beholden to a corporation—and it was beautiful.
And—surprisingly for an indie publication—so was the poetry. But perhaps the most moving piece, seeing as I'm reading the book again nearly a month after his death, is Lawrence Schulz's "Surfing at 40":
"The undertow/shows I am nothing/in the force of true nature. . . . Her waves slap/my business suit consciousness/away and here/I learn/There is no such thing as youth/There is no such thing as age/the distance between years/is no greater/than the distance between waves."
Schulz might be gone, and some days, it feels like the pollution and the construction will take our ocean away too, but—through the magic of the iUniverse out-of-print book re-issue service—Paper Shredders has been resurrected. Glossy cover now, real binding, but still, somehow as magical as the first time I saw it, catching me in local poetry's undertow.
G. Murray Thomas and contributors to Paper Shredders will read at the Ugly Mug Caffe, 261 N. Glassell St., Orange, (714) 997-5610. Wed., 8 p.m. $2; book, $11.95.