Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Readers Anonymous, anyone?

I have often been described as a voracious reader -- a word I have put in italics because I have heard so many people use it in this context that I suppose one and all would agree that it fits me like a plug. I am seldom without a book in hand or within easy reach, and in fact I have one about 6 inches away from my computer keyboard as I go about the day's blogging. Thus afflicted with a major, lifelong case of bibliophilia, I can naturally empathize with others who likewise suffer -- if, indeed, afflicted and suffer are the appropriate words to use here. Perhaps there should be a support group called Readers Anonymous, based on the famous 12-step recovery program; but of course, we all know it would end up being a literary club instead, with members meeting every week or so to discuss War and Peace or the latest offering from Oprah's Book Club.

I found a kindred spirit this morning in the author of this article. It brings back some fond memories of reading to my two children when they were very young. In fact, the very first thing I ever read to my son Colin, who is now 16, was a Sports Illustrated article about Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, who had just won the National League Cy Young Award for his pivotal role in the Dodgers' 1988 World Series victory. Colin was all of two weeks old at the time. Later he developed a preference for such bedtime fare as a book called Baby Farm Animals, although it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that he also became a baseball fan. With Vanessa, who just turned 11, I had a bit less luck. When she was very young, the only book she ever wanted me to read to her was a Spanish-language version of The Little Red Hen, which fascinated her even though she could not understand a word of it. (I think she always wondered why Mommy was unable to read it to her, even though Daddy could.) Later she enjoyed my various renditions of The Three Little Kittens. Her favorite version was the one in which I had the kittens weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth as they confess having lost their mittens, to which their mother reacts with snarls and roars as she pronounces the dread sentence, to-wit, that they shall have no pie. In other versions of this tale, I had the mother cat talking like an old geezer, or like Bruce R. McConkie; and in still another, I had the kittens sounding like Richard Nixon. Of course, I could always mix up the voices, and often did so; and my favorite trick was to do Nixon or the geezer when Vanessa wanted instead to hear the kittens cry.

So, enjoy this piece, and then go read to some child, whether it be yours or someone else's. Incidentally, one day last year Sheila and I speculated about what the Divine Comedy might have been like if Dr. Seuss had written it instead of Dante. I'd love to flesh this out when I have some idle time, but one verse might go something like this:

"One circle, two circles, three circles, four --
My goodness, my gracious, could there be more?"


Blogger Barney said...

Great link and post, Garry!

I still remember the smell of the old Provo Library (the books! the books!) and the aquarium. It was in the basement of the main library. Snip, Snap, and Snur. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka. Mrs Piggle Wiggle. Blueberrys for Sal. Henry Reed, Inc. All the Dr Seuss's. I can remember rounding up a pile of books at the library and then going next door to the Provo Bakery for a chicken salad sandwich on a bun -- with chips and a pickle on the side. Books and food have much in common. We sup from the pages of a good book . Observantg Jewish parents are said to place honey on the pages of the Torah so their young students will learn to love to read the Law.

We read to all our children growing up (still do). It is a guilty parent's pleasure to reread the books we loved in youth to our own children. One of the joys of parenthood.

For long car trips in our family, we are always ship shape if we first go by the library and then ensure there are enough flashlights (and batteries) to go around. No DVD player for us! Books!

That's why Princess Bride and You've Got Mail hold a fascination ("In my day, TV was books" -- and the Shop Around the Corner): the mystique of books and the adventures between the covers.

I have to confess that I read more than I want to now. As a practicing lawyer, I read all day. Then come home -- and read less than I would like to because my eyes are tired and my brain is fried. (I also have to confess to needing reading glasses for the first time in my life...). I also find that I read more online than in hardbound volumes. I'm a news and blog junkie.

It's amazing how far we've come in building a community of words on the Internet. I remember my first AOL search (this was back in '96 when they boasted around 250,000 members and it was still rather primitive -- I think we had a 14.4 modem -- slooowwwwwww). My wife had misplaced an Amish friendship bread recipe, and offhandedly asked if I could find it on the newfangled Internet thing. I was amazed when a simple search brought up 5 recipes, and I could print them all up instantly (well, as fast as our old inkjet could print back then).

We also became homeschoolers in part because of our contact with other homeschoolers online. They gave us courage.

I'm thankful for my college-teaching parents (and bookhound grandparents) who taught me a love of reading.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Garry Wilmore said...

And thank you for an equally worthy comment. Sheila and I both regret that we have been unable to instill in our kids our love of reading, but we do keep trying. Colin is nearly finished with _How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life_, which I gave him as a Christmas present. He also started wearing glasses recently, although when I talked to him last night, he said he was having headaches, and thus was reading even less than usual. We are going to have his eyes checked again.

I've only seen "The Princess Bride" once, but your mentioning it brings back some fond memories of how much I enjoyed this film. Same with "You've Got Mail." I, too, liked that Shop Around the Corner, which of course was run by the Meg Ryan character. When I was in college, I thought of opening up a bookstore someday, and although at this point it is not likely that I will ever do so, I am not yet ruling it out completely. If not that, I may just get me a part-time job at Border's or Barnes & Noble. The only problem with this idea is that I would quickly be fired, because I'd want to spend all my time browsing.

6:40 AM  
Blogger Barney said...

Cindy and I have thought of opening a bookstore with a restaurant in back: After Words. Someday.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

Another bibliophile right here- from a bookworm to a student of comparative literature.

When I was a child I used to visit library on a daily basis, borrowing all kinds of possible books and reading them the same evening. After I'd torpedoed the children's department I moved to that of adults' and found the pleasures of "great names" at a rather young age. When I was 13 library literally became my safe haven; I didn't have the same interests as my classmates and therefore had to go through a period of school teasing and strong discrimination. I skipped a lot of school lessons and spent my days with Shakespeare and other friends who understood me. I have to say I'm happy for everything that happened, for without it I wouldn't be the person I am today.

"So, enjoy this piece, and then go read to some child, whether it be yours or someone else's."

Reading to a child is one of the best gifts an adult can give. A couple of years ago I worked as an assistant teacher in elementary school where every schoolday ended with a short reading moment. The kids simply loved it and couldn't wait for the next school day and the continuation of the story.

At the moment I'm participating a webcourse on childrens' picturebook aesthetics, but unfortunately I'm not able to hear any interpretations straight from the horse's mouth- I wish there were more children in my family!


10:05 AM  
Blogger Garry Wilmore said...

Thank you for that comment. It brings up something that may be of interest, since it relates directly to you.

I have an 11-year-old daughter named Vanessa. About two weeks ago, the three of us went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Tutti Santi; and at some point during the meal, I happened to mention Dante. Vanessa said she was sure I was one of only a handful of Dante fans, but I said no; in fact, I continued, he was everywhere recognized as one of the towering figures in the literary history of the world, and while true, dyed-in-the-wool Dante enthusiasts may be relatively few in number, they tend to be passionately devoted to him. Then I told her I had been corresponding with a university student in Finland who, at age 22, was already well established as one of his devotees -- which suggests that you must have discovered Dante at a very early age indeed. I told her the story about the church bells ringing just as you reached for a Dante volume on the bookshelf at your university. I believe in omens, and that one portends quite well for you, I think!

So you're not alone, by any means. More people in our modern age should make friends of Shakespeare, Dante, and others like them. So keep up what you are doing; you set a great example!

11:42 AM  

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