17 November 2005

Life-long Bibliophilia

One of my first memories in life is of a book. I couldn’t have been much more than three, as my little brother had not yet arrived on the scene, but I still vividly remember the large purple hardback with the silver engraving of a small woman in small hat with a flower. It was Mary Poppins. I loved the time spent in my mother’s lap, hearing the cadence of her voice, feeling the weight of the book on my legs, breathing in the smell of the crisp pages. It was a quiet time in which new worlds were opened.

My next great book experience was discovering the library. I believe I still have my first library card stored among all the other keepsakes of my life. This first library was home to a fantastic miniature collection of the stories of Beatrix Potter. The books were perfectly sized for a four year-old’s hands. The pages had small pen-and-ink sketches that illustrated the stories. The pages themselves were a revelation, having been treated to make them smooth and sturdy, unlike the fragile paper pages of other books. I loved these books, although I have no recollection of the actual stories. Years later I found out my mother disliked these books intensely, yet she still read them to me, letting me experience the joy of literature.

My most embarrassing foray into books involves several pre-adolescent years obsessed with serial novels like Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, and something I believe was called Sleepover Friends. While the Nancy Drew series is a classic, the others don’t rate very highly in the literary world. But at least I was reading. My sixth grade teacher, disturbed by my pop-fiction diet, forced me to read Little Woman, which I did grudgingly and formed a distorted opinion of the book that wasn’t corrected until many years latter. I never did very well with assigned reading. Especially when those assigned readings involved The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. To this day I avoid anything by Steinbeck. And Tess of the D’Urbervilles did little to change my mind about Hardy.

Part of my joy in reading is the discovery. The excitement of wandering down the stacks in a library or the shelves in a book store and knowing that something there will open a new world to me and possibly change my life. Books have power. The power to enlighten, to educate, to entertain, and to engage the mind in a direction it might not previously have gone.

9 comments:

Esperanza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Esperanza said...

I'm gald you learned to like Little Women...I am reading Little Women for the first time, (for class) and I can't honestly say that I like it! I think I would have liked it more at 13, but my disenchanted self, that comes out on occasion reads passages like this one, now, as pure drudgery, and soup-fed ideas.

"I want my daughters to be beautiful and accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected...to be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing that can happen to a woman..." (pg. 92). Yuck!

Perhaps different books strike us differently at different times....I acutally liked Heart of Darkness the second time around...

aquamarine said...

Scully, that sounded an awful lot like passion to me. Being able to trace a book down to the age of three, by your senses, made quite the impression.

There is just something about books that bring the joy of finding some little hidden treasure you may not have found any other way. I get that 'night before Christmas' feeling before I go into bookstores and libraries. So many goodies to behold...so little time.

I too cringe at the thought of reading anything by Stienbeck. I felt like a traider when I finished it, because I then hated a book.

aquamarine said...

it= Grapes of Wrath

Katie said...

I also think I owe my entire literary obsession to my mother drilling it into me as a child. Aren't moms who read the greatest blessing?

Miss Parker said...

Ok, off topic, but that deleted comment has my curiousity piqued, for no reason other than I am prevented from knowing what it said. Always wanting what I can't have...

Panini said...

I remember those Nancy Drew books but my pop-culture obsession was Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High. Ha! :) Barf city!

Scully said...

Right there with you, Parker. Curiosity is my downfall. And hating Steinbeck is not treason, Walking. It is normal. And I completely agree, Katie, three cheers for reading moms! Oh, and Esperanza, I came to respect the book for what it was and find good in it, instead of resenting it and not acknowledgeing any positives.

Esperanza said...

Yes, I have been resenting it, but did finish little women last night, and admit, I did find it a little more romantic than I thought I would....I felt that joy of being 14 again, and couldn't wait until Amy and Laurie kissed, (but wait! we are not supposed to like them together right?)jk