Monday, July 03, 2006
Read Any Good Books Lately?
As you can see, reading is fundamental. I'm not absolutely sure, but I'm guessing from my bookbag and braids, this was snapped at some point during second grade. And yes, I'm reading a textbook. Why? Because I'd probably read everything else I could get my hands on at the time. At least it's a reading textbook (something with a brilliant title, like Adventures in Reading). I'm not reading about fractions there.
I've always been a reader. It runs in the family. I remember my parents reading in bed all the time (unless there was a game on, of course). My mother used to have me read to her before bed. She taught me to read basic Spanish by reading the comics in the back of Replica, the big magazine of the time. My father read the Spanish newspaper and studied the New York Daily News very closely. I have a theory that both of my parents developed quite a command of the English language years ago, but have refused to let their children in on their secret.
To say that my reading was encouraged, well, no one discouraged me, to be sure. My father would buy the Sunday paper for me to read in the station wagon on those long rides to Nyack or the Jersey Shore (there is only so much staring out a window one can do). My sister would let me read her copies of Glamour, Cosmo and Bride (that should explain the stack of fashion magazines next to the bed). I still love magazines and I still get excited when there is one jammed into the mailbox. I tear through the weeklies (New York, Time) within a day or so, but I save the fashion magazines for when I can really devote a couple of hours to flipping through them, reading every article and losing myself in the clothes, shoes and bags (oh! The bags). I'm not about to reveal how many magazines I get in a month, not because I'm ashamed, but because I've lost track. Yeah, things may be out of control on the magazine front.
The magazines sit in a basket next to the bed and are purged regularly. I used to drop them off at my local Laundromat, but since I moved across town, I've found that there is a woman at my favorite coffee shop who is always happy to see me walk in with an armload of Vogue and JANE (who wouldn't be?). I will admit, not every issue of every magazine leaves the house. I buy the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue every year, study every photo, then placeit with the other "collectors' issues". Don't ask me why.
I was a very faithful library user throughout my childhood. We had library class once a week and got to pick out a book to take home. (Do they still have that? A class on how to use the library? Do they even have school libraries anymore?). I remember coming back to the school library the day after class to return a book. The librarian asked me if I was returning it because I didn't like it. "No," I said. "I finished it." I was in the fourth grade and the book (Primrose Day by Carolyn Haywood, still a great book) was over 200 pages. She looked at me in that, "Either this kid is lying or she's some kind of freak" way, but she stamped the book returned and let me choose another. (For the record, I have never lied to a librarian, and if reading a 200 page book in one day makes me a freak, so be it.) I spent my high school summers working at Town Hall during the day and reading 1950s romance novels all night to cope with insomnia. These were Harlequin-type books, but there was not a lot of bodice ripping. I remember reading a whole series about nurses in extenuating romantic circumstances. And yes, they all ended up married to a doctor or a handsome patient who had been saved from the brink of death by the care of the right woman in white tights and orthopedic oxfords.
I don't visit the library anymore. If there is something I really want to read, I'll buy it. I had to start keeping a list of books in my wallet, because if I am left to browse a bookstore without any idea of what I am looking for, well, a search party might be required. I'm also happy to share the wealth. If I finish a book I think a friend will like, I pass it on, no strings attached. I regularly meet two of my girlfriends for dinner and a movie and we always bring books to swap. The books I love best, the ones that mean the most, (To Kill a Mockingbird, Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Letters of the Century, Anne of Green Gables) I keep and read over and over. I received a bunch of books (hardcovers!) for my birthday and they are all stacked on the nightstand, so I'm good for a little while. But, as it says on my favorite bookmark (I have a lot of those too), "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."