Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Today, it seems, we wiil speak of reading

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.

1 comment:

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!!