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A Lifetime of Reading...So Far

 I think I've hit another one of those reading stages. You know, the different places in our lives where books, always with us, play their own part in how we spend our day, how we look at what's happening around us, how we just...feel.

My earliest memories of books don't go as far back as the stories told about me. According to parental legend, when I was four, my older sister came home from school and taught me to read. I was a very willing, adoring, student. :) Then there was the year when I came home from second grade saying I didn't want to go to school. When question, I apparently said I didn't like reading. Stunned silence. Teacher meeting. What I didn't like was the reading aloud time (duh!) when I rarely got called on, since I had the reading down, and I had to sit there and just listen. The wonderful teacher gave me permission to do my own reading during that time.

I don't remember any of this. I don't remember a time when I couldn't read, when books weren't my best friends.

My earliest memories of reading come from the "new house," where we moved when I was nine. Saturday and Sunday mornings...into the afternoons, when I'd only get up to use the bathroom or eat, then crawl back under the covers to read some more. Laying on my bed reading about Annie Sullivan's eyes and wondering if the scratchiness behind my eyelids meant I was going to go almost blind, too. But still reading. 

Some memories of school reading, especially in high school, where our semi-radical lit teachers were banished to the far wing of the school. Where they taught us classes in Peasant Lit and Russian Lit, where I first met up with the joys of 700 page novels that filled me in a way nothing had before.  A sci fi/fantasy class, where I read Ken Kesey & didn't understand a WORD. Years that totally unprepared me to go away to college and major in English Lit, because I'd skipped all that stuff and replaced it with stories a lot of kids never read. I didn't care. I caught up, and I got to have it all.

Then grad school. BURN OUT. The Victorians. The Brontes. Finding out I still loved the books, but I was SO in the wrong world, where books were supposed to be something other than/"more" than books, as if that wasn't enough. A year, a very bad year, of struggling to find books I wanted to read.

And now? Today? I'm the person who takes a tote bag of books to and from the library. Libraries. Who has a list of the books she wants to read as soon as they come out. Who reviews kids' books and blogs about them and writes them and is trying to sell one. 

In some ways, I feel like I've come full circle. I don't get every, even most, weekend mornings to lay in bed and do nothing to read. Many days, I have to work to fit in a half hour/hour of just reading time. If I wasn't a fast reader, I'd despair at being able to keep up with half of what's being produced. And I have multiple stacks these days--the review books, the for-fun books, the will-son-like-this-one books. And the research book.

That's the biggest difference for me about this reading stage of my life. Nonfiction. For my historical YA WIP, I am reading and reading and reading. There is so much I WANT to happen in my book, and I'm trying to immerse myself in the era so I can tell if my plot ideas are even plausible, let alone probably and believable. I have a good idea who my MC is, and I need to find the historic truths that will weave into her story. I have never in my life read, let alone enjoyed, this much nonficton.

So how does this stage feel? For some reason, like spring. Maybe it's the blue sky outside, the shorts I'm wearing, or the pollen coating my windshield (and my sinuses). Maybe its the reassurance that, even as my life changes and so does what I read, there are still, always, books. Or maybe it's the research itself, the feeling that all these details and facts I'm taking in, even though they're about the past, are a beginning for me. A new project. A heroine I love and a story I want to write for her.

Where are you in your reading life? How does it feel today?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
This is great--a readerography. I had the same grad school experience you did. I loved the teaching, but the scholarship...no.

Where are you in your reading life? How does it feel today?

Oh, my readerography is a sad thing. Like you, I grew up reading myself myopic, and have always made regular trips to the public library and the bookstore. In 2000 I started writing. And I stopped reading. I was working full-time and raising two little kids and writing, and something had to go, and that was reading. Then, this past fall, I went down to half-time at the day job, ostensibly to have more time for writing (and book-related stuff), and what it's really allowed is more time for reading. I've spent the past couple of months getting caught up on MG and YA fiction especially, and it's been wonderful.
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)
It is a scary thing to feel like you don't have reading time. Also a bit scary when your "have-to" pile starts feeling like its taking over!

This week, the writing part of all my projects seems to be on hold, so I'm getting curl up and read time like I haven't had for AGES. Congrats on getting your reading time back, too.
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Becky, this was so much fun to read! I had my students write about a time they mark as when their love of reading began, and these were amazing to read -- then they wrote about when their love of writing began. I sympathized with you in grad school. I got my masters in fiction writing, which was perfect -- I did some reading, of course, but wasn't overwhelmed with paper writing. I sometimes ask my students to compose questions about what we're reading, and having just finished Wind in the Willows, one question was based on a Marxist-capitalist critique of the book, and the kind of vocab that can be fun but doesn't come too easily to my mouth. And can it kill or stymie a love of writing? Usually I let my students respond either creatively or analytically to the books; which is I what I would have loved to be able to do as a student!
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, what I always loved in college was just getting to talk, talk, talk about the books...just whatever you felt/loved about it. And the analysis was fun. Grad school, and this was only my experience, seemed to tighten all the reins and force something that just didn't fit...for me.

Your class sounds so much fun!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )