Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thank you to books

As a kid, I wasn't a big reader. I lived in a time when we could play outside and ride our bikes all over town. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood and sometimes we'd play games all day long. In the summer, we'd be out until dark. Even board games were played on the front lawn.

I feel badly for kids who can't be outside without adult supervision for a few minutes or hours, just to play. A kid's play is their way of learning to work. Cooperative skills are needed to decide what to play, and rules are needed to play fair.

I hear about folks who grew up reading voraciously, under the covers with a flashlight. I think that's cool. I was too tuckered out to stay awake after my head hit the pillow. But eventually kids grow up and don't play together on the lawn anymore. I discovered the beauty of the written word in my teens.

My first memory of sitting down with a novel for my own entertainment (not for school) was the summer when I was 17 and the boy I had been dating broke up with me. Oh, no. My life was over! I didn't want to see my other friends. I just wanted to curl up into a ball. But I needed something to do. One can only contemplate one's navel for so long. So, I grabbed the thickest book I could find in the house. Guess what I read? The Godfather. Yup. The Corleone family transported me outside my little suburban bubble, and I was completely sucked in for the whole ride. I lived on pretzels, ice tea, and a dramatic trilogy for the rest of that summer.

It was Michael Crichton who said people will always need entertainment. I needed it desperately at that moment. Reading has helped me in other desperate times too. I liked philosophical novels like Siddhartha and short poetry like Leaves of Grass among the many self-help books when going through my divorce.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabeldon was my first modern day romance novel. I had read one in the seventies that was a wallbanger, and I pronounced the whole genre trash. I'm very glad I got over that. Claire and Jaime Fraiser got me through my parents having terminal illnesses at the same time.
Are you noticing a pattern? My reading tastes changed with the milestones I was facing. 

The Godfather was perfect for someone feeling used and abused. Take that, Steve Touchette! Ha!
Reading philosophy and psychology were ideal ways to process a relationship that was damaged to the point of divorce. And romance...what a way to honor the lives of two people who had navigated all the storms of life and time, and still loved each other to the end.

My reason for reading now is pretty much purely for entertainment (and to keep an eye on my talented competition!) And why romance? Because through all the reading I've done, I've found I need a satisfying ending. Happy ever after is best, but I'll even take happy for now. I don't know why romance gets such a bad rap. I think it has to do with our living in a Patriarchal society, but I don't want to begin ranting about what I learned during my feminist reading period. The point is, it makes me happy. Whatever you watch, read, or listen to can affect your mood. (Did I say 'can?' I meant DOES!)

I like to feel good. Hopeful. Happy. That's where I'm at in my life and romance takes me there. Thank you, Diana Gabeldon. I haven't read every book you've ever written, but I sure found my favorite shelves thanks to you.

9 comments:

  1. I used to read Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy in the fall of every year. Now I read Harry Potter every night before I fall asleep. I guess I need the magic to relax!

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  2. I LOVED the Godfather. When Husband was in college we frequented a little used book store that sold paperbacks, 5 for a quarter. I was in there buying my five romances for the week and ran across a hard back copy of The Godfather and the owner let me have it for the same price as a paperback. I read it about three times that week. It's one of three books that changed my life. The other two were Exodus by Leon Uris and Gone With the Wind.

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  3. I love magic now too, Cheryl.
    My next venture will be a series called The Cupcake Coven. :)

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  4. Wow! You read The Godfather 3 times in one week? Were you also trying to vicariously deal with wanting to do someone bodily harm?
    LOL. Just kidding, Grace.
    I wonder...How did it change your life?

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  5. Ash, I'll try to explain that story in a corner at RWA sometime. A short one now: When The Godfather came out in the movies, I wanted to see it so bad, but we couldn't afford a babysitter so my best friend said she'd keep the kids for me that night so Husband and I could go. THEN I broke my glasses and nearly cried. Same best friend loaned me her daughter's glasses (we had pretty near the same prescription) so I could see.

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  6. That is the sweetest friend, Carolyn. I remember never going out when my daughter was a baby. A night at the movies would have been a real treat.

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  7. Fascinating perspective on why and what is read in our youth. I was then and still am a mystery reader - love to get lost in them.

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  8. That's wonderful, Victoria. To find your genre so early probably gave you a lot more wonderful stories to enjoy.

    I remember monitoring my reading taste when I decided to try writing. I was drawn to erotic romance. *blush*

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  9. Reading has saved me from many crises!

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