Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Love Affair with the Novel

One of my favorite memories is of my Dad reading The Lord of the Rings to me when I was about five. Of course the images I formed in my imagination didn’t match up once I read it on my own seven years later. But sitting quietly, listening to the soothing rhythm of my Dad’s voice as he read and peeking over his hands at the page, it was the start of one of the most positive things in my life.

Of course like all love affairs, it's had its ups and downs. In school they diagnosed me with a reading disability and I spent years sitting through classes meant to help me improve my reading level; most of the time I was bored and unhappy.

The schools also had a program called Accelerated Reader which listed certain books for points; you took a test once you finished reading and were awarded points according to your test score. As part of the reading program in elementary and junior high school you had to have a minimum of points each month. I hated that program because the books I enjoyed were never part of it and I had a hateful teacher who wouldn’t accept anything that wasn’t on the approved list.

My affair with the novel also suffered through high school as I found that reading cut into my extracurricular activities. Wonderful things such as sneaking out to parties, getting drunk, and ditching school left me little time to enjoy a good book. But when I found myself grounded I would always turn to an old favorite. Jane Austen, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia C. Wrede, Oscar Wilde, and J.R.R. Tolkien were stacked next to my bed. Even if I wasn’t reading much I carried a book in my purse, nestled next to my diary. I was armed against the world that way, prepared for doctor's waiting rooms and bus stops.

I found myself reading much more as I got older, past the hormonal rages of my teens. It didn’t drive me crazy any more to sit at home on a Friday night and read like it once had. I devoured novels: fantasy, mystery, horror, science fiction, the classics, chick-lit, histories, fiction, memoirs, and biographies. I started to read three and four a week, always on the hunt for the next good thing.

The problem with my love affair at the moment is that it has started to border on the obsessive, which is never healthy. I’ve filled the tiny apartment I share with my husband and two cats with books. Stacked three deep on bookshelves, piled on table tops, flowing along the top of the dresser, and piled so high on my bedside table, they reach the ceiling. I have a lot of books.

I’ve read a little over half and the rest are titles that I saw in bookstores, thrift stores, garage sales, antique malls, and anywhere else I can find them — I just had to have them. I buy them and plan to read them, and I will read them I tell myself firmly, but there is always another cover that catches my eye; another story line that seems to grab my attention.

The saying is true, so many books and so little time. Depending on your beliefs there is an afterlife. Can we read once we are dead? I sure hope so.


LeRoy Dissing said...

At some point, I wonder if you will start to write :) Perhaps someday all the reading will prompt you to create something on paper from all the books you have read, are reading and/or will read. I can imagine you having quite the active imagination!

Like you, I think reading is one of the greatest acitivities a parent can teach a child. Like with your own dad, reading captivates the mind, holds one's attention span, and uses one's brain in creative ways not as possible with video or sound games that many of today's youth find amusing.

I find it hard to believe you had a reading disability. Doubt they could say that now!

Nothingman said...

My dad never read me anything :P i think my reading genes are all cuz of mom:)

I live like a nomad so can't afford so many books but having a LOT of books and my very own library is my Fantasy! :D seems like you are living that! Damn! :)

Read on, I'm sure god loves a good book and so does satan!

Death has a library according to Mr Terry P ;) So i guess bookholics like us needn't worry:)


Sevenine said...

Oh, I really do hope we can read when we're dead. I might then get through my book collection. :) It doesn't sound as big as yours, but it's getting there little by little. The strangest thing is I'm only 17 - my parents think I'm strange because I've just started showing interest in leisurely reading. They don't complain - they go, "I'd rather have you reading than out on the streets." They have nothing to worry about; I've never shown any interest in parties, drinking or the sort. I'm a bit of a homebody. My favorite place is the college library (besides my own home). It's peaceful, quiet, with lots of literature. You can't get much better than that!

Anonymous said...

Well, if you wanna delve into the metaphyiscal...
When we die, since we are all made of energy and we are all part of the continuum, we absorb all the knowledge and wisdom of the collective. In essence, we all read every book ever written in one moment.
Not the kind of thing you can curl up in a chair with a cup of coffee over, but I imagine very satisfying all the same. =]

I know I'm looking forward to finally finishing Walden. HA!

Sevenine said...

It seems you finished up Seeing Redd, eh? Definitely quicker than myself. I'm only on Chapter 17. :)

Katie said...

Leroy, well I've got several things I'm working on. Two novels, one I'm pushing myself to finish at the moment and countless short stories. We will have to see if anyone would want to publish them or not :)

Nothingman, I'm sure you will have your own library at some point. I think my husband wishes I didn't have one. :)

Sevenine, me too. I read a lot when I was your age... I just read so much more now. Your parents are right though. Reading is so much better than all that other crap.

Roo, well leave it to you to get all metaphyiscal on me. LOL. Absorbing all the knowledge (I'm sure this includes all the romance novels I can stand) would be good though as you said not as good as curling up with the book. But I guess I'll take whatever I can get.

Katie said...

Sevenine, yeah I finished it this morning. I stayed up most the night though to get through it. What do you think so far?

Sevenine said...

So far, Seeing Redd is really good. I just haven't had time to get further in it - working on the college newspaper as a reporter and editor keeps you busy. :)

And regarding your comment to me, if I were to name any one thing I was obsessed about, it would be Hugh Laurie and House. I adore the show, and Hugh is such a diverse and fantastic actor. I've seen most of his earlier stuff, including a few of the British series he did. He's an absolute riot, and it's hard to believe that the man who played Stuart Little's dad now stars at this boilingly hot grumpy doctor. :)

NouveauBlogger said...

Well, as far as obsessions go, it could be a lot worse, right? lol

Katie said...

You are very right. It could be worse... I keep telling my husband that but I think he thinks its bad enough :)

minijonb said...

wow, that sounds like a big "To Be Read" pile you have there. don't forget to sell the old books you'll never read again or that don't have any sentimental value.

Katie said...

MiniJonB, I do trade the ones I don't like in... but then for everyone one I turn in I bring two more home. I need a better plan.

Amazing Gracie said...

A better solution! Rent a bigger apartment with a spare bedroom! The problem is when you move - oy!
My hubman was kind about it at first, but the more boxes of books...the worse his back hurt (and at age 63, I can understand!), I actually pared down and either sold or gave away more than half of my books. And I still don't have enough space.
I feel panicky if I don't have a book available, literally. I think I'm afraid to be alone with my thoughts!

Katie said...

Gracie, I wish we could move into a bigger place. At the moment though we are stuck where we are. It's tiny! But soon, maybe in a few more months we might be able to move. I've got my fingers crossed anyway. :) And I know what you mean about having to have a book around. It's like a comfort blanket for me. :)