Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day XX: Reading

I read a lot. 

I don’t want to brag or assert that I’m better read than you or your mom or your best friend or your uncle who happens to be a librarian. It's just an observation. I probably read more than the average new adult. For anyone unaware, I was raised—more literally that you might think—amongst the shelves, racks, and displays of a bookstore. Over the ten or so years that my mom owned Fishing With Your Mind, I bet I spent at least half of my non-school, non-sleep hours lazing around the pages, spines, words, smells, and auras of fiction, nonfiction, and young adult literature. I may have spent even more than half—time flies when you’re lost in the world of another writer’s imagination. 

"And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery…and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything." –The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon

It’s hard to quantify the past when you spent most of your time flitting through worlds that do not exist. Sure, I wasn't reading all the time in the store. (Sometimes I was working, sometimes napping, and—on more than one occasion—holding an informal Magic Tournament with my friends.) Still, a great amount of my time involved my nose in a book. Even now, I wonder how many times people tried to get my attention while I was reading. When reading, I have this tendency to saturate myself in the book, to immerse myself in a flood of language and syntax and semantics and come up for air only when absolutely necessary. I like to call it “dolphin reading style”—dive down, come up, dive down and hold. Anyone who’s tried to get my attention while I’m reading has probably experienced a great deal of frustration in doing so.

Once, I was so distracted by my novel—still a favorite—that a fire alarm went off, people left, and I looked up from my pages to find myself in a very loud, rather empty room. Oh, Study Hall, you used to be so great.

“Animals that escape go from the known to the unknown—and if there is one thing an animal hates above all else, it is the unknown.” –Life of Pi, Yann Martel

I don’t think I ever slept in Fishing With Your Mind, but it’s always the first thing I wish I’d done when I remember the copious amount of time I spent inside the walls and windows of the little shop. “To sleep, perchance to dream” about books—it would have been nice.

Now that chapter of my life is closed and I think the building that once housed a childhood of words is currently a t-shirt shop that sells slogans like “GOT BEER?” and “Walleye Capital of The World…or at least any place around here!” I become ill when I think about what has become of that old building, what memories are trapped inside now covered in mass produced, poorly-made cotton clothing. I hope there are still crumbs of my muffins in the cracks of the floor and that hairs from the puppy version of Lucee still linger in the corners. I think it would be nice to go back in there someday and read a book in the middle of coat rack, to play pretend, to imagine that somewhere, there is a happiness from so long ago still floating in the now stale and sub-standard air.

"Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return." –The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

My library is modest. It consists only of what I've most recently read. Five years? Six? This does not include the books I've loaned out nor the ones that have graced my presence. I could tell you my favorite quotes from all of them, but I think that you’ll be more inclined to take the book for yourself and find your own special moments within the words on the page.

Alas, dear reader, my guess is that you have about as much time to read these days as I do. Naturally, this leads me to a moment of vulnerability. 

I have a confession: I've only read three books since January and am only now trying to get through a fourth. That’s a book-point-five a month and I feel guilty, guilty, guilty. Of course, I am aware that many of my sexy, ferocious readers will not find this as big of an issue as I do. Many of you probably just see it as an expected consequence of life being, well, life. 

And that’s sad, right?

I want to read a book and not feel like it’s a waste, like something better could be done with my time.

Because, really, what could possibly be better than taking a journey that means more to you than it could ever mean to anyone else? What on this earth can make us feel like part of something special better than a book?

Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.

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