I suspect most of you have a dangerous habit. You get an URGE, your cautions are clicked off, you are impelled by an irresistible chain. You indulge, synapses sizzling. You are spent, but oh, the afterglow. What have you done, you naughties? Why, you’ve been reading. It’s a harder habit to drop than smoking.
That thought occurred to me when I saw my mom reading with a big magnifying glass, craning her head thisaways and that to reach the words. My mom is 91, and her eyes are shot, but she’s still jonesing for words. Even though she listens to audio fiction (and digs it), she still wants to take in the text with her eyes, to turn up the heat in the brainpan where metaphors sizzle, to ride on a line of words and feel their curves in the wind. Readers: shameless.
[pullquote]And I bring my mother up, because I am the hopeless crack baby of her addictions: she exposed me early to the intoxicating pipe of reading.[/pullquote] And I bring my mother up, because I am the hopeless crack baby of her addictions: she exposed me early to the intoxicating pipe of reading. I have lacy memories of her sitting on the couch, engrossed in her book. Engrossed at least until I started eating the ashes out of the nearby fireplace, as she insists I did. Well, I had to do something to get some attention.
There’s the treachery. Reading’s a seduction by atmospherics: seeing someone voluntarily repeat an action over and over toggles a switch in your system that whispers “And you can do that too.” When drooling was the most reasonable reaction, I had the usual suspects of kids’ books read to me, followed by reading fairly early on my own. I’d been very aware that my mom read big books, tomes—it seemed that she was into this thing and deep. Later I realized that many of these worthies were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, which seemed to take some luster away. (Do you know that To Kill A Mockingbird was a Reader’s Digest book? What did they take out, the mockingbird?)
Reading: At This Point, You Have No Choice
I did hazily understand that people do have a choice in their pursuits; my mother still made plenty of time for martinis and poker. But once it gets a little beyond choice, only reading fulfills the addiction caused by reading—watching “Ice Road Truckers” episodes is a weak substitute. Being word-hungry is a little like loving ice cream: when you eat a little, you want more. Same with words. [Read more…]