Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fifteen Things About Books

This has been going around some of the blogs and journals I frequent, and I couldn’t resist.

1. My mother taught me to read using a series of books that added a few new words to each installment until, by the end of the series, they were pretty much regular chapter books. I went through the first ten without getting up from the floor and my mother had to physically take the box from me to get me to the dinner table.

2. A few weeks after my sixth birthday, my kidneys failed and I was in ICU for over a month. When I was finally allowed to go home, my immune system was shot and I wasn’t allowed to be around other children while I recovered. That winter, my father dislocated his shoulder and my mother had a bad arthritis flare-up, so we were all stuck in the house pretty much until spring. To pass the time and keep from killing each other, all three of us read the entire Little House on the Prairie series. I clearly remember waiting very impatiently for my father to finish On the Banks of Plum Creek so that I could have it.

3. The first romance novel I ever read was called After the Affair and I found it in my grandmother’s laundry room when I was nine. I believe it was a Harlequin that she’d gotten in one of those $5 bags from the library, and she’d probably be shocked to realize that, indirectly, I found out about sex from her. Three years later, when my mother handed me a (non-fiction) book in lieu of “The Talk,” I was like, “Um, yeah. What else have you got?” As I recall, the non-fiction version sounded like a whole lot less fun.

4. My mother started giving me classics to read very early on because she suspected that I was reading books that she considered too adult for me. (She was right.) As a result, I read most of Jane Austen, the Brontës, and Henry James before I started high school.

5. My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the characters, the story, the humor and the tone. Even though she only ever published that one book, Harper Lee is one of my idols.

6. The first day of my freshman year, I walked into my English class carrying War and Peace, which I hadn’t quite managed to finish before the school year started. My English teacher, who was just out of college, looked at me like I was from another planet and didn’t believe that I had actually read most of the book until she quizzed me thoroughly on it.

7. In college, I was a history major in large part because I read The Zion Chronicles and The Zion Covenant series as a teenager and was fascinated by the history in those. Fifteen years after I picked up the first book, I am still impressed by the amount of research and historical realism in those books.

8. I get very nervous when people borrow my books, particularly ones that aren’t easy to replace. I’ve lost so many beloved books to people who promised to return them that now I practically make people sign a contract just to peruse my bookshelves.

9. On the other hand, I have no problem giving books away if they’re not ones I want to keep and re-read. This goes for most of the trade paperbacks that I read, books I got at used bookstores and anything else I am confident I can replace.

10. Shortly after reading About a Boy, I had a sex dream about Nick Hornby. Yes, I know he’s short and bald—I didn’t care. He’d be pleased to know that, in my dream, he was magnificent.

11. Last spring, I went on a vacation to Hawaii and read nine books in eight days. This was in between snorkeling, swimming, surfing and eating my weight in fresh pineapple. It was heaven.

12. I have an ongoing love affair with Russian and Irish writers. Give me some Dostoevsky, some Wilde and maybe a pint of Guiness, and you won’t see me for hours—possibly days.

13. I love to visit the homes and haunts of authors I admire. I once spent several hours sitting on the stairs outside Maxim Bulgakov’s apartment in Moscow, just breathing in the genius. Last summer, I dragged my protesting little brother into the Dublin Writer’s Museum and spent two blissful hours with Behan, Yeats and O’Casey. Another favorite vacation memory is going on the Literary Pub Crawl in Dublin with my friend Kath.

14. I get extremely nervous when my favorite books are made into movies. I’ve actually sat in the theater with my hand over my eyes, terrified that the movie will fail to capture even an inkling of the book’s spirit.

15. My vision of heaven strongly resembles the Long Room of Trinity College Dublin, which is an enormous room filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and battered wooden tables. I just hope heaven has a good Chinese delivery restaurant.

So, do we become writers because we love books, or do we love books because we are writers?


Blogger Jana J. Hanson said...

So, do we become writers because we love books, or do we love books because we are writers?

Interesting question. I've never actually thought about it. I think first and foremost I love books. I could have my nose in a book 24/7 and I would be in heaven. I think I choose to write (or aspire to write) because I believe I have stories to tell. But these days, I'm becoming a reader again instead of a writer.

Very thought-provoking, Mel, as always!

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

Sorry that it took me so long to get here, but I finally made it.

Your question of reading vs writing is a fascinating one Mel. As someone who enjoys editing the work of others and who also occasionally helps with story planning and brainstorming, but who is in no way a writer, I'd have to say that I love books simply for the magic that they bring into my life.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

Me again. :)

I forgot to add that when I was a kid, my vision of heaven was the place where you could read all the books ever written (including the ones from the Library of Alexandria!!) and have all the time of the eternities to do it without anyone bothering you. Well, that and the fact that you could be with all the animals from the Peacable Kingdom painting and could pet the lion who wouldn't subsequently eat you. :)

4:22 PM  

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