I’ve been thinking-ish.
Sweet Cheryl came to the house and brought her Kindle (or was it a Nook?). She thrust it at me. “You’ll love it, Carol,” she said. “Just try it. Just one toke. You’ll be addicted. I was.”
Okay–it wasn’t quite like that.
Holding the device didn’t make a believer out of me.
So–Here’s what I’ve been thinking-ish.
When I was a kid we had a googillion books.
Mom wanted to be a writer.
She taught English and creative writing.
There were books everywhere. Bookshelves FILLED with all kinds of literature.
While I remember lying on the floor in front of the heater with a Dick and Jane reader hating how I struggled over it (probably because of my mean first grade teacher), I also remember when I was finally a non-struggling reader and how I loved having all those books at my fingertips. So very physical. So tactile. Right there. Let me pull this out and hold the weight and see the beauty of the word on the page. Let me smell it, maybe flick a bug out of the pages, carry it to another room and pretend that I’m a witch and this is my spell book.
I started Tom Sawyer over about ten times and never finished. I did memorize the first few lines, however. And I loved Huckleberry Finn. Those were the only book for a younger reader in our house. Well, and The Marvelous Wizard of Oz. But there was plenty of Hemingway and Faulkner and Steinbeck and O’Connor and Shakespeare, if I wanted to just peek in and look things over. And I did.
Once while on my LDS mission I broke the reading rules (okay, I did it twice). I had a pretty awful companion (for five long rotten horrible terrible months) who drove me crazy. And I happened to find a book called Charlie written and pubbed for Latter-day Saints. We lived in a monstrous house (that was later invested with fleas, but not because of us) and whenever I had even one moment alone (which was hardly ever), I read Charlie while hidden in a closet.
There was something daring listening to my companion wander around that mansion calling and calling for me. And I sat in a small closet that she never thought to look in and read that book. I didn’t think it was great writing. But I did think that there was something awfully comforting holding that book in my hands. She never caught me, BTW, and I was able to heal a bit with that novel.
When I got back from my first semester at Vermont College I made an announcement. “I have to read for my homework.”
What a thrill! I could read all I wanted and it was legit.
I went to the library. I brought home about fifty or so books. Any that were for the middle grade audience and up, I read to myself. All the rest I read out loud to my girls–those who would gather around me. I know at least Cait and Carolina were there. Can’t remember if Kyra sat in the room, too. The books were stacked everywhere. According to subject, and sometimes, size. We went through the titles, reading them all, savoring the pictures of the non-fiction and picture books, sharing the books between us, especially those non-fictions with life-size drawings of prehistoric life in them that have pages that fold out huge. By the time my school experience had come to a close, I read nearly 800 books. It should have been over 800. That was my goal. But it turns out I read a few books more than once and didn’t know it. And also one teacher asked me to read only ten books during one packet season and she wouldn’t let me count Twilight for more than one though, with the pain I felt reading it, she should have.
Wouldn’t that be cool to see those novels, picture books, mid grade, early readers, massive goth books with too many words, books on science and etc all around me and the girls? Tons of books. Not as easy to carry as a Kindle. But, cool, to have them so close. To smell them, run our hands over the words. Try to copy the drawings or flip back to a favorite page to read something over.
When I was little Mom would sometimes drive us past the library in Sanford, Florida. Mom was not an avid library goer though she took us occasionally. I’m not sure why she didn’t visit the library more often. Maybe she was worried about fines. (Oh, we could talk about library fines!) Or maybe it’s because she didn’t have time and was putting herself through school.
“I smell books,” I would tell her as we drove past the red, brick building, the smell of the river in the air. And the smell of imagined books, too.
Once, she left me in the car with a novel. It was a Wizard of Oz sequel. I can’t remember the title. I was nine. I do remember that there was I was in the back of the station wagon, lying on a mattress to keep someone from stealing it. The back door on the car was down and I was on my stomach, holding that book, my long blond hair falling forward. My ankles were crossed. I remember this all because a newspaper reporter snapped a picture. The caption beneath the photo was wrong. It said I was waiting for my dad to come home from military service. By this time in my life I hadn’t seen my dad in years and I would see him only once when I was 12 and not again until I was 25. When asked, I left out the part about keeping the mattress from being stolen. I was just enjoying a book. I was so involved I hadn’t even heard the camera snap.
Have you been there?
My story of books starts early and goes right till this very second. I could talk about Mrs. Emery who loved stories and always told them to my fourth grade class. I could talk about the nun that screamed at me because I was so engrossed in reading about Helen Keller that I didn’t hear her tell me reading time was over. I could talk about Nana, who drove me to the library every time I wanted to go and let me check out the maximum number of books every time I visited her.
But I could.
There’s this really cool moment as a writer that I’m always surprised by. It’s when my own books are in the process of being printed. There are these fun steps that make the waiting for the final book not as hard. My editor will eventually send a cover so I can see what the book will look like. But the truth is, I am always working on another novel when that last book is completed. I’m not waiting around but pushing forward on the next novel to be written. I do have at least a year with it, after all, and I need to get going.
Then I get a package in the mail and I never expect it. The girls always gather around and I never let them open the package because I love my mail but it is so cool when I pull my newest book from that envelope and the girls grab at it and I hold it up high and say, “Wait, wait, let me see first!” and then they take it and we hold my very own novel. My words! There in my hands! And the cover is so smooth and it’s cool to see the font and run our fingertips over the pages and look at the binding with the cover off.
It’s a heavy sign of satisfaction. And a lot of grinning. It is.
I’m okay with only being able to hold a few books at a time. While I want 1500 books in my library (okay–I have way, way, way more than that) I don’t need to carry them around with me.
I may change my mind about electronic books. But the mind-changing is a long way off.
For me, there is too much that’s sexy in the actual book itself and a little hand-held computer thingie doesn’t have that appeal.
Yes, I’m old. I know it. But I am okay with this part of aging.