Until this weekend.
Whoever you are out there in the "blogosphere" that recommended my Memorial Day reads ... thank you, thank you, thank you. First, allow me to apologize for my bad habit. I write down the books that people recommend, but I don't write down who recommended them. Often I click straight from one website directly to my library page and put the book on hold. I can't thank the person who suggested these books and I am sorry.
I loved them.
I was entranced.
I was inspired.
I was happy reading again.
These books each deserve their own post, but I read them back to back and they are intertwined in my mind so I will write about them both here. They are about the same thing, but so very different. Each book is about one person's life in books and life with words.
The first book I read was Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books. She starts with the same questions that have been plaguing me for months,
What is it all about? What am I doing it for? And the classic addict's question, What is it doing for me?
Her answers challenged me to face my reading demons. What is it about reading that I love and need? I am past trying to prove something to other people. I don't really care what they read. I don't care if they know what I read or that I read.
It started -- my reading, that is-- innocently enough, and then it infiltrated. It didn't replace living; it infused it, till the two became inextricable, like molecules of hydrogen and oxygen in a bead of water.
Exactly. Reading is as much a part of my life as eating or sleeping. I realized that I have been searching much too hard. There is no reason for reading in my life. It is just a part of my life and always has been. Reading is not my life, but it is necessary to it.
How are we to spend our lives, anyway? That is the real question. We read to seek the answer, and the search itself -- the task of a lifetime -- becomes the answer.
Like the bodies of dancers or athletes, the minds of readers are genuinely happy and self-possessed only when cavorting around, doing their stretches and leaps and jumps to the tune of words.
And really, why do I care so much about books? Why do I care that, above all else in school, my children learn to read.
For in the end, even if all my books were to vanish, I would still have them somewhere, if I had read them attentively enough. Maybe the words on the page are not even the true book, in the end, only a gateway to the book that recreates itself in the mind and lasts as long as we do.
I am glad I read Schwatrz's book first this weekend. It freed me from the need to know why I was reading a book and allowed me to throughly enjoy the next slim volume I picked up, Donald Hall's Unpacking the Boxes.
I put down my note taking pencil and put away my mini-sticky notes. I read. I immersed myself in Hall's life and lived along with this former Poet Laureate of the United States as he found and followed his passion. I laughed and I cried and I vowed to read every single book he has ever written. I wish I could pick out passages for you from his memoir. I wish I could share the words here, but I can't. I think this book should be taken as a whole. His father's dreams for him can not be separated from his life at Harvard or his friends and family. They are who he is. And, WOW, what a life.
I have included these book in the same post, but many will say they are nothing alike. That may be true; but the first allowed me to enjoy the second, and the second allowed me to appreciate the first.
Read these books.