Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The point of this blog and about me

Point of this blog: This blog is simply a place for me to post my thoughts about the books I've read and ramblings about books, authors, and book culture in general.  I hope that those of you who may read it will share your own reading & book experiences as well.

About me:   Books have been a big part of my life since I was in middle school.  It was then that I discovered reading for my own pleasure.  Prior to that I don't recall reading for pleasure.  Well, that's not exactly true.  When I was really little--before school almost ruined reading for me--I loved my Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary (1964), The Story of Ping (1933), Saucy (1968) and a few other books from our home and/or the public library, but school reading was the pits.

Other than our school librarian, Miss Warchol, reading Where the Wild Things Are, I don’t recall any of the required school reading that I did prior to the 8th grade.  My preferred leisure activities were riding my bike, swimming, garbage picking with my cousin Danny, playing softball or swift, pickup football, climbing trees, jumping garage roofs, skeetching in the winter, sledding, having snowball fights, etc., basically anything you could do outside that did not involve harming animals.  I even put up very little resistance when I was told to mow the lawn or water the vegetable garden. I loved to shovel snow.

 But then one day toward the end of the 7th grade while slouching on my desk in Mr. Fruits's social studies class flipping through a Scholastic catalog, my slightly glazed-over eyes fell upon an ad for the book DRACULA.  Whoa, I sat up.  They made a book out of Dracula?  No way!  He was my favorite character on Creature Features.  I even had one of those plastic Dracula models.  But a book about Dracula?  Well, I just had to check it out.  That evening I asked my parents if I could order the book and they jumped at the opportunity to support any interest I showed in a school related activity, especially reading.  Due to my propensity for outdoor activities, I wasn't exactly a rock star in the classroom.   And, I should add, both of my parents are/were BIG READERS.

When Dracula (1897) arrived I was surprised and a bit daunted by how thick it was.  Much thicker than any book I'd attempted before.   But it was about Dracula and the book’s description sounded just like the Bela Lugosi movie that I'd seen, so I was determined to give it a go.  (A note to younger readers: this was before The Internet when movie adaptations of books are often made obvious in a simple Google search of a book’s title, and even before VHS & DVDs when you watched a movie "live" on the TV or not at all, or at least not until a network decided to air it again.)

Anyway, in my memory it seems like I spent the entire summer lying on the green & white stripped canvas hammock in our yard reading Dracula.  Of course I read the book outside.  That must have been a sort of unconscious compromise: “Okay, I’ll give this book a try, but only if I read it outside where I normally play.”  I can still feel what it felt like to lay on that hammock with my often sweaty head on the pillow and the birds swooping over me as they flew to and from the chestnut tree under which I lay.  I can feel the dry paper of the book in my hands, smell a neighbor's lawn as they cut it and hear the whir of the mower blades.  I even remember noticing the quality of light and shadow as the sun moved across the sky throughout the afternoon.

I remember it took me a while to get into a flow of reading Dracula due to the language and writing style.  It wasn't exactly a Hardy Boys level reading experience.  But looking back I'm proud of my younger self for sticking it out because the book truly changed my life.  I read that book with a sense of discovery because it not only filled in the richness of the movie, it also gave me the pleasure of immersing myself in a rich & detailed story, of getting to know characters & being in their shoes, of spending time in a foreign land and experiencing a time period gone by.

Dracula was the book that propelled me into the joys of having one book lead to another and then that one to yet another.  I became a reader that summer.   What book did it for you?

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