Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why I Love Books

Amazon.com. (Deep inhale, satisfied sigh.) I just ordered my copy of Swann's Way, Within a Budding Grove and The Guermantes Way translated by CK Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin. While on the site, I also ordered Story of the World Vol. I CD set and activity book for the kiddies and The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays for me. I just can't seem to stop myself. What is it about books that I love so much?

Books are miracles, really. What other human endeavor allows someone far away or long dead to whisper in your ear and tell you how the sun feels in Algeria or how a madeleine tastes (we really must get the recipe). Good authors fill the movie screen of your mind, make you feel the chill of a cold rain, the pain of grief, the joy of a new-found love. Books also connect to the selves we once were and show us glimpses of who we can become.

I remember falling in love with reading as a fourth grader at Northampton Elementary School. My kooky teacher, Ms. (you better believe it) Moss created a reading cubby in our classroom with four bookshelves set in a square. She filled it with bean bag chairs and throw pillows. I had a favorite bean bag--lilac, I remember, but it wasn't the color that made it my favorite. It had just the right amount of styrofoam beads inside to make a comfortable cocoon around me as I propped a book on my knees and twirled an errant strand of bangs with my right index finger. In that bean bag chair, I read A Wrinkle in Time, The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), The Westing Game, The Great Brain. I also remember reading a lot of Greek mythology --Medusa and her stony stare, Prometheus and his eagle trouble, Hercules and his to-do list.

In junior high, my best friend Jodi Atkinson and I discovered the pleasures of the Harlequin romance novel. We borrowed them by the hundreds from the library and brought them with us when we worked as Candystripers in the gift shop at Northwest Medical Center. Instead of helping customers, we sat huddled on our stools behind the counter and read about Drake and Destiny's passionate/on-again off-again love. How far away that life felt from Spring, Texas.

I have other fond reading memories: Gone with the Wind read on the sunny balcony of my first apartment; Coming Up for Air read in the wake of an organic chemistry final exam; For Whom the Bell Tolls read in a single weekend while coiled up on the Papsan chair I shared with my white cat, Sebastian; David Copperfield read in a Bermudian cabin while on a stolen weekend with my husband, Samuel. My all-time favorite reading memory happened when I was a junior in high school. I was up late finishing Animal Farm. As I turned to the last page, my father poked his head into my bedroom, probably to tell me to turn off my light. I must have had a look of pure astonishment on my face (Those pigs!) because he said, "It's good, isn't it?" Oh yes, it's good. There is no pleasure like reading a truly great book for the first time.

5 comments:

Luisa Perkins said...

Kara, you take my breath away, as always.

Kara said...

Thanks, Luisa.

Exciting news. Amazon shipped out my order today!!! So I need to finish The Plague (and the Price of Salt, and some poems...) before it arrives. Ohhh. Where does the time go? Why did you ever introduce me to Weboggle? Grrrrr. If only I had some self-control.

Luisa Perkins said...

Kara, I most profoundly apologize. I should start a Weboggle Recovery Group.

Christie said...

Okay, now I have to know. What's Weboggle? It sounds fascinating...and if you're going to be addicted to something, Weboggle at least sounds really fun...
And, Kara, this was a lovely post. You stirred up all of my own reading memories, which are some of my favorite to think about...hmmm. In that sense, I think we could call this a very Proust-ish post...

Kara said...

Don't do it, Christie! Don't type www.weboggle.shackworks.com into your address line, because you will find yourself an hour later with an aching back, tingling fingertips and the words, "just one more game" on your lips. Weboggle is ugly and as addictive as crack. Instead of white lines, it's white squares... I feel I must warn you.