Sunday, May 28, 2006

Extra! Read all about it!

The photos here, taken in 1949 or ‘50, show me and my grand-father, on the same end of the same sofa, engrossed in what we’re reading. Other than love itself, the love of reading may have been the greatest gift I ever got from my mother and the grandparents who raised me. All of them read for the sheer pleasure of it, and I learned early on that it wasn’t something they had to do; it was something they wanted to do.

My mother and grandfather devoured “murder mysteries,” the paperback crime novels that sold for 25 cents each at the drugstore on the corner and featured gruff detectives who worked long hours out of seedy offices to prove that blondes (or brunettes) in tight dresses had killed their hardworking husbands. If you look at the stack of books in the picture I posted yesterday, you’ll see that some of that rubbed off on me. Today’s thrillers are less formulaic, I think, but probably not by as much as I’d like to believe.

My grandmother mostly read magazines, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and Redbook. She liked articles and stories that were short enough to finish in between household chores. Mammaw was a “good news” kind of person, and the murder mysteries were not for her.

I reveled in comic books, those featuring Disney characters, of course, and especially Little Lulu and my all-time favorite, Archie. (That devious Veronica still makes me mad.) Once I started school, I moved through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series and into the "Ginny Gordon” mysteries. Somewhere along the way I read The Island Stallion, Walter Farley's story about a boy and a beautiful wild horse that haunts me to this day. Those books and all the others took me places I’d never otherwise have gone and introduced me to characters and situations I might or might not have bumped into again in the course of my life.

All of us read the newspaper, and I still remember the first news article I ever read. I was only six years old in April of 1949, when three-year-old Kathy Fiscus fell down a well and died, but I’d heard something about it and wanted to find out for myself exactly what had happened. I’m sure some of the words in the article were unfamiliar to me, but I could read enough of them to understand what had happened, and the story of Kathy and the failed but heroic rescue effort moved me to tears.

One of the books in the stack pictured with yesterday's post, The Great Deluge, by Douglas Brinkley, is about the devastation during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve seen some of the results of Hurricane Katrina firsthand and watched hours and hours of television coverage, but I firmly believe I'll understand it much better after I read about it.

Those of us who live in the internet age are fortunate to have an additional source of reading material: weblogs. Who would ever have believed there’d come a time when individuals across the world, skilled writers or not, would be able to share their innermost thoughts and ideas instantaneously with strangers -– with you and me? And who would ever have imagined how reassuring it would be to read that all those people in all those places, people with different orientations, different lifestyles, and different opinions, have so much in common when it gets right down to the heart of the matter?

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. I've gotta go read the Sunday paper.


  1. i think all of my kin has gone to the lake and you and i are out here alone today.i love to read also, my father and grandfather read and i learned early on that it was pleasure to read when i was in 3rd grade we got out first hard back reader, i read it the first night i had it. the next day the teacher told us to read the first story in the book, he caught me reading a book out of our small libarary. he said i was soppose to read in my reader. i said i have read it, he turned to the last story in the reader and ask me question about the story which i answered. he never ask me about reading again. my problem hAS ALWAYS BEEN THAT I CAN'T GET ENOUGHT TO READ.

  2. I remember I used to bring a book, usually Curious George, to my mother who was sitting in the living room reading her own book, and demanding that she read to me. I remember when I first started to read on my own-that feeling when the lightbulb went off and the page I was staring at suddenly made sense!! The boys in the family didn't read much, but I remember reading my sister's Nancy Drew mysteries, and I also loved comic books-I too liked Archie, and Little Lulu. Richie Rich, and the ducks with the rich uncle. My mom would sigh when I wanted money for the latest Archie Digest. I also remember that my mother hid "The Godfather" from me because I was so eager to read it. I guess she didn't want me reading about the adultery and the horse's head-I was only 13. It was such a milestone when I got my "adult" library card and could leave the boring children's section and venture into the previously forbidden territory of grown-up books. It was like I had been given entry into Ali Baba's cave.

    You're right about the Internet being a good place to meet like-minded readers, and the Internet has helped me so much with research and finding books to read I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

  3. Patsy, I know what you mean. There are three things in my house that I can't do without: dogfood, Diet Coke, and reading material. Pretty much everything else is expendable.

    OJ, I forgot about Nancy Drew! Oh, and make the internet the fourth item on the list above.

    These were entertaining comments, ladies. Thanks!

  4. You are a woman after my own heart. I've already read the Harlan Coben one and finished Beach Road a couple of days ago. Not one James Patterson's best but I keep buying them anyway without looking at the inside leaf, don't you? My first memory of reading intensely was Nancy Drew and I had to go to the library and wait my turn to check them out. Of course I loved Archie and Betty and the hateful Veronica but all read the 'thrillers's like Superman. Do you remember Plastic Man? I could go on and on about books, maybe some day we can.

  5. Noel, I know what you mean about James Patterson's books; sometimes he misses just a bit. His good ones are REALLY good, though, so I cut him some slack. And, yes, I read Superman, etc., too, but I never bought them with my own money because I knew my uncle (7 yrs. older) would get them. I guess I must have missed Plastic Man, because he sounds like a character I'd remember.

  6. this is true about meeting people from across the world. i too believe that people have more in common than they think they do. when i travel to blogs it is usually because a picture or something caught my eye. but the content is what makes me come back. there are journals I frequent because there is a connection there, a trate i admire in them, or maybe they write about things i've never thought of before. i probably never would have met these people in real life but on their blog i have a glimpse into their life and I'm grateful to them for sharing it.
    the funny thing about your entry is that i was going to do something along these lines for my Gratitude Monday entry. I logged on and well, you'd already thought of it. .... it's something we have in common eh? we appreciate the accessibility via the net into the lives of people we would otherwise never meet.

    smiles to you,


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