Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Story of a Reader-Addict

I’ve been reading for a long time. I remember reading when I was four years old and would read the Sunday comics aloud to my family, who believed they were safely ensconced in my parents’ bed before breakfast. I must have driven them crazy. I remember those times, though, with great delight. 

When I went to kindergarten the next year, we didn’t learn to read. But I kept on reading at home. In first grade we began in earnest applying our little minds to reading. Reading circles, books that were given to us for the school year, writing on very wide-ruled paper with pencils. I loved it all.

My brother David, four years older, would take me to the main library in downtown St. Petersburg regularly. Mirror Lake Library, sitting next to beautifully round and landscaped Mirror Lake. The building was Florida green – a fairly ugly color. But the building held magic for me.

David showed me the science fiction section and he would check out books for me. I adored the fictional world of fantasy, space exploration, life on other planets besides Earth, visits by aliens from those planets. I don’t remember reading any “girl” books. 

My best friend Martha introduced me to Nancy Drew, girl detective, and we spent many hours replicating her adventures with our own neighborhood “detecting.” The books we read in school paled next to these adventurous stories of extraterrestrials and girl detectives.

I used to tell people I was addicted to reading and that if nothing else was available to read while I was eating, I’d read every single word on a cereal box. An early consumer detective. That was when I was a kid; I still do that.

I grew up reading both English and music. I played the piano before I started reading words. My father, a professional musician, wanted me to learn how to sightread music, so I began music theory lessons when I was five years old.

By age ten I was sightreading and learning how to accompany other musicians. My father would gather his students (violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet) around our piano at home and we all played chamber music together. I learned how to keep time, interpret and play difficult rhythmic figures, keep track of exactly where we were at all times in the score. With music you learn how to live completely in the moment.

I finally earned a bachelor’s degree in music, and was still reading books (and cereal boxes and everything in between) voraciously. Ultimately, I ended up on the English side of the equation and earned a master’s degree in humanities so I could continue teaching writing and literature.

Then I got sick and couldn’t teach in school or keep a regular schedule of any substance.

So I write, and my reading informs my writing and my reading continues to deepen my experience of life.

Though I am most interested in 20th century literature, I am now re-reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. But I always read more than one book at a time. I need the balance. My balance for Anna is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a fun story also full of mystery, metaphorical meaning, adventure and murder. I'm also reading cowgirl writer extraordinaire Pam Houston's latest book, Contents May Have Shifted, about her worldwide travels.

What are your first memories of reading? Did you like it, love it, hate it, or just see it as a necessity? What are you reading now? I’d love to hear because I love to talk about books. And I always, always, always want to hear about new ones, too.

I’ll be exploring reading on the internet and the authors who have changed my life in the next few postings. Stay tuned for more stories of the Reader-Addict!

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