Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books Scream

       A new blogger acquaintance of mine wrote a post recently about her addiction to books.  It was an hilarious post about  returning a book through the book drop at the library that she really didn't mean to return.  In fact, she was relishing the book and now it had been prematurely returned.  Her absolute panic when she realized what she had done convinced her that she was, in fact, dealing with an addiction.

       Not to take addition lightly, but I must admit that I have a similar relationship with reading.  I LOVE to read.  When all else fails, I know that I can crawl into a book and my world is good.  I grew up in a family of readers. Among other things,  we read novels, non-fiction books, magazines, cereal boxes, the encyclopedia (really!), maps, and two daily newspapers.  During the summer months we walked to the County library but that trek and the library visiting time took a good two hours - not enough time to make the trek after school during the school year  and the library was not open on weekends. During the school year we read school books and occasional books that were found in the weak classroom libraries.  We also re-read old favorites over and over again.

      As an elementary school child, I was introduced to classics and thrived on them.   Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain were two authors with great appeal but so were the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse.  I was especially fond of mysteries, biographies and realistic fiction.  I was decidedly NOT enamored with anything in the science fiction or talking animal realm.  Not then, not now.

      In high school I met Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Stephen Crane and so many more authors.  There were very few that did not capture my attention.  I also got a job in the county library system as an appropriately named page.  Primarily I was responsible for re-shelving books, some check out work and lots of "shelf reading"- a process wherein every shelf was routinely checked for errors in alphabetization and placement of books.  The work was boring EXCEPT I got to see every new book that came into the library and I got to check out as many as I wanted.   

     In college I got to work at the "general supplies" counter in the student book store.  It was the best job for two reasons:  access to all those books to read on my breaks and access to all the cute college men who needed to go to the bookstore for supplies.  My major in college wasn't English but I was always taking some English class or another , just for fun.  I favored contemporary fiction and met the more current crop of authors:  Norman Mailer, Ford Maddox Ford, Joan Didion, Adrienne Rich, Erica Jong, Joseph Heller and others.  

      For some reason, after college I never went back to the classics.  I still favor a blend of fiction and non fiction but my fiction pretty much is contemporary American authors.  Maybe I am closed minded but maybe it is also my own way of narrowing down the selection.  There is only so much time and there are so many books.  Sadly a real part of my relationship to books is the book review.  Just about the first place I go on my daily sites is the book review section of NPR, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NY Times, Goodreads, Millions and more.  I read the reviews and then go check them out at Amazon and see what the common people say about them. 

       The thing is, I end up with more books to read on my "to read' list than I will ever have time to read.  I need to ask all the readers out there, how do you do that?  How do you read a book or more a week?  I can and I do accomplish that in the summer time but not in the work season.  My problem is that besides reading, I like to write and to paint and to ride my bicycle and walk the dogs and even sometimes work in the yard.  Books scream at me all the time and I shush them by carrying them from the bedroom to the living room and back.  If I just stopped reading those reviews I could probably catch up to myself ....


  1. I haven't even made it through the post yet, and I had to stop. There are talking animal stories and then there are stories that involve exclusively characters who happen to be animals. I gave an eighth grade girl "Watership Down" once, because she had exhausted all genres, and mastered my supreme offering successfully: "The Count of Monte Cristo."
    "You want me to read a book about rabbits?" she'd asked me? "Yes. Yes, I do. In fact, you need to read this book." I checked in with her three chapters in, and she was still waffling, but by the time I checked next time, her eyes were sparkling when she said, "Those rabbits are something else." If you read this book all the way through, and you feel the same way, then I won't even bring up the Redwall Series.
    Warning; I have not yet addressed "Stranger in a Strange Land."

  2. There is science fiction and there is Robert Heinlein. He wrote "Stranger in a Strange Land" in 1961. I got my grubby mitts on it as a fifteen-year-old, around the same time I was devouring "The Winter of Our Discontent," say summer of '67, the same year i was painting Fellowship Street candy apple red. To "grok" is to "drink" in a concept or knowledge, and assimilate it. It means to understand or appreciate, or to relate to someone or something. Sharing water made you water brothers, and to grok one another, was to achieve a harmonious order of things. I have forty-one of Heinlein's novels in the other room, having scoured Arcata and Eureka for them when we came up in '82. I grok your art, as well as you.

  3. Yes, I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" and I remember not being that impressed. I WANTED to be b/c so many other people liked it - ditto with the Hobbit series (which I admit to never reading - only starting) and the Watership Down series. There are too many other things that call to me. But it will probably turn out the way Brian predicts with bridge. He says that sometime when I am in my late 70's I will discover bridge and then be mad at me for not playing much earlier. I don't think so but you never know.

  4. I don't usually do the sci-fi/fantasy thing either, but made an exception in the case of the Wicked Years books. Haven't read much that could be considered "classic" since high school--other than re-reading "Wuthering Heights," "Gatsby" and "The Scarlet Letter" from time to time. I always feel a little guilty about it, for some reason. Or like I'm missing out.

    Your comment about reading cereal boxes cracked me up. I wrote a piece years ago about reading compulsion that included the line, "At the breakfast table, where books were forbidden, I read cereal boxes. This was years before the FDA mandated that nutrition labels actually be legible and the tiny print danced before my morning-bleary eyes like a conga line of microorganisms."

    I'm going to have to check out the review sections you mentioned--though I, too, have more books on my "to read" list than I am statistically likely to live long enough to finish.

    Finally, I'm glad you enjoyed my post and I hope no one took it to mean that I take addiction lightly. In both my personal and professional life, I am all to familiar with the toll real addictions take on addicts and their families. I was actually on the fence about using the addiction framework in a humorous way for that reason, but finally decided to go with it because it seemed the best way to make fun of myself and my weakness for the written word.

  5. PS--Don't feel obligated to play along, but I tagged you for "The Versatile Blogger" award. You can read more about it here:

  6. I really liked "Stranger" as an adolescent, much the way I liked "Catcher in the Rye" or "Portnoy's Complaint." Adolescent boy fantasies are fine but when I've tried to reread them as an "adult" they aren't quite as great...
    Wow! A story about a guy in a roomful of women he's impregnated!
    Every schoolboy's Dream! And what teenage boy doesn't like stories about masturbation?
    I need a drink now....

  7. Well, it has only been fifteen months since I underwent my now-famous seven therapeutic sessions, and rid myself of a mental condition which existed since age ten. I have determined that I am about eleven years old, emotionally, and I am experiencing many of the same emotional tendencies that an eleven-year-old would. How about those hand-made Christmas cards I just sent out? They are the first Christmas cards of any sort, that I have sent out since before 1985. Making Christmas cards sounds pretty elevenish to me.

  8. I make my own Irish coffees... Does that count?

  9. Only if you "count" me in. I bought some Paddy's last summer in an off-licence, in Ireland, and brought it back on the plane. Sure, and that made for some foine Irish coffee, Laddie.