Monday, June 13, 2011

Reading...reprinted from Jan. 27, 2010

Because I am, at this moment, under the spell of Dickens' David Copperfield and am still digesting Great Expectations, unready yet to write about such total captivation, I resort to the expedient trick of the re-post. Apropos of nothing, my favorite quote of the weekend came during the Miami-Dallas NBC Finals game when one of the broadcasters referred to Jason Terry, he of many 3-point miracles, as a "crafty veteran." I would be happy to be called the same.

Good fortune is what I would call the diverse, textured, possibly unmatched segments of my life. While in the living of them they more or less flowed into one another, there is also an element of separate chapters, compartments, with few threads connecting them. Still those sturdy fibers endure.

It was not my intention, this sampler of costume changes, mobile scenery. And by many standards with which I am familiar, my story likely seems rooted and static. I have never lived in another country, have only flown across one ocean, have seen my name in print but never in lights, have yet to visit anything but a few of the edges of America and have mostly lived within a two-hour drive of where I was born. Yet even those limitations provided opportunity for what feels like an existence in which boredom was never an option.

My belief is that if we love to read, we will never be bored; we will never feel time weighing upon us as something to be gotten through but rather something of which there is too little. As they used to tell it, my parents - mad readers - had begun to doubt that I would ever be their TRUE child and take up the book as best friend. Their deliverance was Miss MacPherson, third grade teacher and tide-turner who, though she wouldn't permit Nancy Drew stories for book reports - and our library didn't stock them (think pulp fiction) - she didn't discourage her students from reading anything that called to them and it was the same in my home.

So we have reading as one of the threads, mysteries as genre of choice though nothing was ever rejected without inspection. I still haven't found my way into, let alone through, Proust and the list of haven't-gotten-to-yet...well, back to that notion of too little time. In my most hopeless moments - and years - it wasn't difficult to read a book a day. Not much else was achieved but the list of titles consumed grew longer. In a period of compulsive spending, bookstores were always my destination. At that time I worked in Burbank and had the luxury of two of the now-vanished Dutton's stores within lunch-hour distance. Then it was poetry and contemporary fiction. I still can think of no greater indulgence than a bag of new books.

Once I fell under the influence of Miss MacPherson, and Carolyn Keene's spunky characters, a stack of Nancy Drews, individually wrapped, was the hoped-for sight on birthdays. It is easy to picture my Aunt Dot walking up our long driveway with such a gift in her arms. My mother had been a follower of the girl detective and in second-hand shops we'd find editions from the twenties and thirties, more exotic and enigmatic than the fifties versions with their "modern" dust jackets. Not so long ago I read some of the newest incarnations and was shocked, not like Claude Raines in CASABLANCA, but truly stunned, to find murder in a Nancy Drew plot. Some things are just not done.

As I write this and realize it is determined to be what it wants to be, not anything close to what I'd had in mind, I feel the stability of what remains consistent. I thought I would be writing about a range of disparate experiences over the past six decades and end up, instead, celebrating word on printed page, a phrase for which I feel much affection, recalled from Van Morrison's song, "Rave On John Donne." It would not be a hardship to have every entry here, at the very least, reference reading, authors and titles and, at most, having that be the main theme. When I read reviewers whom I think find their way to the heart of things and use language that lets us know what is true, I acknowledge that I am not destined to write reviews for all the things I love, for I would be dragging in vague references (oh, she asks, are you not doing that already?) and being entirely consumed by what I like and unable to speak with any intelligence or impartiality about something I don't.

Maybe it would be wise to permit myself to praise books that stay in my mind and simply say why. But that would mean having to go back and read them again, fresh information and not slightly foggy memories. Darn. In my experience, we are nudged or frequently shoved into a direction other than the one we intended. What a gift, what an adventure. No, you didn't take the wrong bus, you just didn't know it was the right one until now.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

A woman after my own heart! Voracious reading has been the constant in my life throughout almost 60 years of changes, permutations, and re-births. One of the most exciting days of my life was when I began working for the library system here in San Luis County 20 years ago. First crack at all the books!!
January 27, 2010 11:00 AM


Radish King said...

Yes and yes to Dickens and Nancy and The Bobbsey Twins At The Seashore and Sue Barton Student Nurse and poems tons of them thank bog for these gifts. Yesterday I spoke to my horrible mother and thanked her for playing classical music all the time when I was a kid. She was struck silent. Then she added and books and this too is true.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - I believe that great good comes from acts such as yours, calling to say thank you for what you treasure. One day I realized that I could not separate the unwanted bits of the past from the choice ones without somehow losing some of my essential self in the process. You are my hero and beacon today. xo

Robert the Skeptic said...

I was hammered over the head with "Great Expectations" repeatedly, then made to watch the movie in class as well. I don't know why the school system was so fixated by that one author and that one book.

I am drawn more toward non-fiction today.

Antares Cryptos said...

Boooooks! My precioussss.

A book, a kingdom for a book.

You see what books did to me;)

Proust? The remembrance of thousands of pages...

Anonymous said...


audio books while I stitch are bliss.. hours go by and I can live in their world..

Jayne said...

Ah, Marylinn, books! Not more than two days ago my daughter used the B word. "What, huh, BORED you say? That's purely a state of mind darling. I've never been bored in my life, there is always something to do, even if it's just thinking about something to do..."
And the girl put her hand over my mouth and said, "Yes, mother, I'm going to go read now." She has a Kindle--so we don't have to run to the bookstore. (I can't keep up with her.) ;)

Laoch of Chicago said...

David Copperfield is wonderful.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - I wonder what writers are offered in schools today...unless I am delusional, we had GREAT EXPECTATIONS, DAVID COPPERFIELD and A TALE OF TWO CITIES...I suppose that is a lot of Dickens. Yet - even though I passed my classes - other than TALE, I retained or appreciated none of the richness...I love his characters and the simple sweeps of the pen with which he lets us know so much about them. Is it not wonderful, the choices we have in reading? How easy it would be to do nothing else.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares-Cryptos - Exactly what books have done to me. Admitting extreme prejudice toward electronic readers, while admitting convenience, nothing will ever (a period between each of the words, for emphasis) replace the feel of a book in hand. "Swann In Love" sits, hoping. Stranger things have happened. Ruined by reading. :D

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - I noticed at your blog the mention of listening to books...the ability to do two things at once, quite a concept. Sometimes even ONE thing challenges me. As I come to know a bit more about poetry, I have learned how important it is to hear it read...why would other writing be different?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jayne - The "B" can such a state exist? I agree, even thinking about something to do - often the best part - can occupy a mind for hours. Perhaps I am easily amused. I don't know that I would have traded a Kindle for those summer trips to the library, coming home with the maximum number of books allowed. Funny how they never seemed heavy, walking the many blocks on a warm morning. There is such joy in even talking about books and reading. :D

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - I have just reached the point of Peggoty's wedding...and I find it hard to put the book down and do the grown-up thing of going to sleep. Whatever I missed in that long-ago reading (or shameless skimming) I am certainly absorbing now. Yes, I do love it and our young Davy.