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Monday, December 15, 2008

Reading as a Memory

In a recent interview with Jacket Copy, the Los Angeles Times literary blog, National Book Award finalist Salvatore Scibona, author of The End, says about reading:

For me, ideally, a novel should be read slowly, in some version of solitude, in a state of willfully suspended disbelief, while alert, with a lot of sympathy to spare, while warm, in a room without too much unnecessary light, while one is 16 years old, lonesome, lovelorn, while there's something else one is supposed to be doing, late at night, hoping a certain person will call; and she doesn't call.

That simple but clear description made feel for the sixteen year-old boy reading in the dark room. It made me feel like I was him.

More importantly though, it reminded me of my own reading memories: a rare overcast day, curled up in the reading corner I'd carved out of my childhood bedroom, beside the window, my grandparents' red down comforter in various states of wrap over and underneath me, alternately reading and praying for rain. To this day, that memory is exceptionally strong for me. The way it felt, the way it smelled, the feeling of satisfaction in the reading.

That is where I fell in love with reading, and it is an experience that is long lost to me. As I continue to read, I will create new reading memories that will also be a part of my passion for books, but none will ever rival that first.

What about you? Do you have a memory of reading, more powerful than all others?

3 comments:

Dave said...

Just a bunch of small ones. Reading Misery under the covers. (And getting caught.) In the back of a U-Haul after having just dropped my oldest sister off for her first year at Boston College - the protective plastic on the library copy of Four Past Midnight was frayed around the edges. The creases in the bent spine of my Star Trek books. The weight of Invisible Man as it rested on my math books. Running my hand along the bindings of the Hardy Boys collection as a kid - they felt shiny and...blue. The glossy feel of the paper in National Geographic. How the pages stuck together in the World Book Encyclopedia and that sound they made when they came apart. The smell of the older books in the library. The flimsy pages of the Bible in religious school. The careful peeling off of the discount sticker. The moment in the car when I looked up from reading the Grey King and didn't know where we were (New Hampshire, going to camp.) The one that never changes: not caring how late it gets, just having to finish. Another that never changes: that moment of "snap back" when you reorient to the world around you - kind of always feels like the moment right before you're finished being dizzy.

Jay said...

My 6th grade teacher gave me a copy of "Eyes of the Dragon" by Stephen King when I was 12. I was hooked from page one. I read it while walking home from the bus stop, tripped over a low lying hedge, then just laid there for a bit on the grass and kept reading.

Erika said...

My very favorite reading memory is actually of being read to. I was very small. I was curled up next to my mother under this big red quilt we had with a strawberry print all over it. My sister was on her other side. Mom had been reading the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Guide to the Galaxy books to us. I remember her reading the bit about how flying is just falling and missing the ground. Somehow that made perfect sense to me. For me that moment has both the comfort and the wild fantasy that reading provides. My other favorite reading moment came much later in life. I was home after college and rereading Jane Austen's Emma. I snuggled in my bed, away from the world, just me, my book and my pet rabbit. The rabbit and I dozed off together, somewhere around one of Harriet's truly embarrassing moments.