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.