Upon reading a new blog yesterday (see blog links on bottom left for Natalie Brown’s “Delirium” blog), it really amazes me how certain words or phrases entice my eye. As a child, I read voraciously, but purely for enjoyment. Books, magazine articles, newspapers, even the encyclopedia. Over the years, my passion for the written word has been quelled by other, more superficial activities: namely television and the Internet.
As most of you know, my memories are like photo stills in the back of my mind that I often can’t access without assistance. But I can remember the distinct moment in my life when my love for reading and writing for fun started to die: the summer before the seventh grade in 1990. It was my first year of required summer reading for honors English students, and I realized that my favorite book series, “Sleepover Friends” would not count! (It’s for ages 10-12, LOL) I ended up donating my entire series to my sixth grade teacher’s library.
However, one of the options for summer reading was “The Yearling.”
I was probably one of the few kids who actually read this book all the way through, in hopeful anticipation that the ending would justify the monotonous 1938 exposition. I clearly remember lying in bed, finally reaching the end and thinking, “That’s what happens? This is the ending? Oh my God. This is the worst book I’ve ever read.” The distaste started then, and it hasn’t left my mouth since. Unfortunately, it trickled over into my leisure reading, too.
Because English was my strongest subject, I would remain in advanced classes the rest of my educational career. Granted, if it wasn’t for these classes, I would have never discovered the works of Shakespeare, Langston Hughes, e. e. cummings, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and countless other authors. However, I had to wade through Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky and other classic authors I loathed just to get to the stuff I loved. In fact, there’s one book I’ve read where I can remember details about the plot, but I’ve literally blocked out the title and author because I hated it that much!
Though I placed out of English classes at USC, I decided to do literature as my minor. Why I subjected myself to more required reading (AKA, “pure, unadulterated torture”), I have no idea. Maybe it was because I thought it would really help regain my passion for reading.
Alas, ’twas not to be.
However, the best book memory I have began with the most random and unbelievable encounter. There was a function for scholarship receipients my first semester as a student at the President’s House. I never cared much for being recognized for educational achievements. I probably went because I was enticed by the free food. 🙂 In fact, as I was in the food line, filling up my plate, then President Palms was mingling nearby, and he spoke to me for a minute. He asked my major, and when I told him it was journalism he said, “Oh, you should read this great book called ‘Cold Mountain’ by Charles Frazier.” I figured that would be my one and only opportunity to talk to him one-on-one (and it was), so followed his reccomendation.
I still own the hardback copy I bought in 1997 and have yet to even watch the entire movie, even which garnered a ton of accolades. It’s still the best book I’ve ever read.