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Reading Memories, Part One: October 25, 2008

October 25, 2008

Reading has been such an important part of my life for as long as I remember, that I don’t remember what it was like not to read. Nor do I remember the experience of learning to read. All I remember is my first reader wasn’t about Dick and Jane and Spot. It was about a boy, a girl and a dog called Tip.


I’m pretty sure I took to reading like a duck to water. My mother used to say she bagged me reading National Geographic when I was seven, but I’m sure I was just looking at the pictures. Still, I never took a reading comprehension test in which I was at my grade level; I was always reading beyond it. I was intensely proud of myself at 13 because I was reading at a college level.


I lived all over the place growing up, so I can place how old I was by where I was. I have no memory of books in the third grade, none at all. I remember Captain Kangaroo, but only because I could only watch half before having to go to the bus stop. I remember playing outside and I remember my classroom and the teacher I adored. But no books.


Fourth grade is where I first saw The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The title intrigued me, but I could never quite work up the nerve to go look at it. I can still see it on the bookshelf next to the classroom door. The thing I do remember reading in fourth grade is Hawaiian history: King Kamehameha I uniting the islands, warriors going over the pali, the king’s favorite wife, Kaahumanu. (We were living in Hawaii at the time, so this actually makes sense.)


Fifth grade is when I finally read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The things that stick out for me are Mr. Tumnus’s sweetness, the Turkish Delight, supper at the beavers’, especially the jelly roll. I wanted to step into a wardrobe and find myself in a magical place; I mostly wanted to step away from my own life. Reading still does that for me, give me a respite for whatever’s oppressing me, a vacation for my mind and heart.


Fifth grade was also my introduction to English history. I went with my dad to visit my mother, who was in the hospital, but I couldn’t go in. (It was a military hospital and I was 11 years old.) My dad left his copy of Thomas B. Costain’s The Three Edwards on the seat; bored, I picked it up and was soon entranced by Edward and his lovely wife Eleanor.


Sixth grade was The Hobbit, of course. A classmate, Jim Young, turned the book into a fabulous play that the class put on. My best friend Becky went on to Lord of the Rings, but I was intimidated until at least 9th grade…and after that, I read it every summer. Sixth grade was also when I read A Crown for Elizabeth for the first time, sparking my lifelong interest in Elizabeth I.


Seventh grade was Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, which I adored. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate is that Taran in the first book is the same Taran as in the last book…except he’s grown up at the end. The series does a fabulous job of showing his maturation over time…but that’s only something I recognized when I re-read the series as an adult.


Somewhere in there, I found Little Women, identifying with Jo even before I knew I’d be a writer too, even though I was never a tomboy, even though my temper was much more like John Brooke’s (a slow burn) than Jo’s (a quick, fierce explosion, soon overcome).


What are your reading memories?


Gone for the Day: October 24, 2008

October 24, 2008

I’m out with the in-laws tonight, so no post…

Aha!: October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

I need to get to bed — I want to read before I go to sleep, but I have to go to sleep early, because I have to be up early — so this is going to be brief.

I went to the library today to drop off a bunch of stuff and pick up four holds that had come in. One of them was Danny Goldberg’s Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business. It looked interesting, so I started it on the bus.

It was exactly what I wanted. I’m not sure if it’s the breeziness and liveliness of the prose that makes this what I want. Maybe it’s that Goldberg the narrator is a likable guy. Or maybe it’s just that I’m interested in the stories he’s telling. I don’t know why — I just know it’s true.

This is probably the happiest place to be as a reader: The place where you have exactly the book you wanted.

Still Not Sure: October 22, 2008

October 22, 2008

Last night when I went to bed, I poked around my piles of books, trying to figure out what I wanted to read next. I ended up pulling out Joseph Campbell’s Transformations of Myth Through Time. The book is based on a series shown on PBS, exploring the common elements of myths from around the world, across time. I’m feeling the need to understand mythology in more depth for the story I’m currently working on, and for a story simmering on the back burner. I can’t separate my writing self from my reading self, and this is a case when the two are most closely intertwined.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure this is what I want. Which is one symptom of the reading itchies: starting things and just not feeling the love, despite being able to recognize that this book is one you should love. The Campbell is the kind of book I normally devour, still wiggling…but I’m feeling kind of meh.

This is because I’m in the middle of a creative burst — the book has colonized most of my head and is taking all the energy it can get hold of. Which means less energy for reading.

Ah, well, that’ll pass, and I’ll be a reading fool again.

What To Read, What To Read: October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008

I finished Longfellow last night. It makes me a little curious about his poetry, so maybe I’ll look into that.

Until then, what am I going to read? I’m not in the mood for Fingerpainting on the Moon; I’m not in the mood of either of the books I pulled from my library stack, American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill and Massacre at Mountain Meadows. I have a big ol’ pile of library books, and mountains of unread books I own, and I’m not sure any of them will work. I have no idea what I’m in the mood for; I suspect I won’t know until I find it. Until then, it’s just restlessness and irritation and “Not this, not this, not this.”

Double-teaming: October 20, 2008

October 20, 2008

As it turned out last night, I kind of knew how the game was going to turn out by the middle of the 6th inning. There is a quality of magic the team that’s going to win has as the 7th game goes on, as if nothing they do can possibly go wrong. They become invincible. The Red Sox had it in 2004 and 2007; the Rays had it last night.

So I crept into bed with Longfellow and read until the beloved came to tell me it was all over.

This morning, I didn’t feel like bringing Longfellow to work with me, so I took Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom by Peter Levitt with me instead, and read it on the bus ride home. I’ll go back to Longfellow when I creep back to bed, and leave Fingerpainting for the bus.

I don’t think I’m the only person who reads more than one book at a time; I’m pretty sure I’ve heard other people say they do it. I don’t do it all the time, though, and I’m not entirely sure what prompts me to do it when I do. I’m interested in both books and want to read them both — I just don’t want to read Longfellow on the bus, nor Fingerpainting in bed.

Just a Little Reading: October 19, 2008

October 19, 2008

After last night’s baseball game, I still read — I couldn’t help myself, and I knew I could sleep in. Which I did, and I also spent about an hour in bed, just lolling about, enjoying the contrast between my cool bedroom and my perfectly toasty bed. I also read during the game — between inning halves, and during the lengthy delay while they figured out what was up with the home plate umpire. It helped me stay calm(ish), lowering my stress levels. (The beloved says, “It’s just a game,” and he’s right, but I still get wound up.)

I’ve done something like this all my life, used reading as a way to manage my emotions and to put mental space between me and a stressful situation.

So I think I’ll go get Longfellow, and read in between innings, and try not to get too wound up.