Thank God this is the only kind of hangover I have to worry about anymore. I’ve read 800+ pages of danged good stories in the last three days. I already told you about The Shack. I can’t tell you about the second one as it isn’t published yet, rest assured, as soon as it is I will!
It’s not exactly a secret that I read a lot and read fast. I also read anything and everything. If it has words on it I will read it. But I really prefer books over shampoo bottles and cereal boxes.
The rest of my school books arrived today. When J saw the pile she guessed a thousand pages. I told her we should add it up because it’s way more than that. So I got my TI-83 out and we did. 4,164 pages lined up for school this fall. At a slow rate of 200 pages a day that’s… 3 weeks of reading for me. I will probably also read plenty of non-required books, too. It’s just how I roll.
But two full novels in three days is a bit intense, even for me. (Ok…I might also have read a few chapters out of several other books as well…I tend to multi-read.) It helps that they were both really good stories. Also that the kids and I seemed to need some laze-around the house time before school starts and we’re on the go all the time.
I don’t want to give you the impression that reading is all I do. Actually, I do have a life. In that same three days I also dealt with car problems, went to a meeting, ran the dishwasher three times, got ready for and then missed church due to car problems, ran the washing machine three times, checked Facebook and Twitter and WordPress several times each, read stories to my kids (ooops…forget to tally that in the page count…), painted water colors with my daughter, helped my son clean his room, emptied the litter boxes, sorted through a pile of kids’ drawings, watered my porch plants, ate, slept, bathed, talked to friends on the phone, snuggled cats, fed my children, bathed my children, talked with my children and posted a few things here. Oh yeah, and I wrote a few pages of poetry. Can’t forget that. That brings the obvious question: how do I do it?
I would like to say I didn’t watch any TV but that wouldn’t be quite the truth: J and I watched some of that adorable little pony show together. Mostly I just fit it in as I can. I carry books with me everywhere. Even the bath tub, but not the shower. I’ve never learned speed reading and I don’t have a photographic memory. I read each word the old fashioned way.
This isn’t some post on Calvinist time management skills. It’s not even about priorities or bragging rights. Reading is like anything else, the more it is practiced the easier it is.
I didn’t learn how to read until around my 8th birthday. I was well into second grade before I decided to read. And then, well, it was all over from there. I was in a combination class that year, half second graders and half third graders. It’s one of those things that happened at very small schools in back in the 1980’s. In a matter of weeks I went from being the slowest 2nd grade reader to the fasted 3rd grade reader. I also went from being popular to hated and didn’t understand it in the least. I just took off running and pretty soon I was flying and left everyone behind and didn’t have the social skills to understand how that would hurt my friends feelings.
The next year I moved to New Mexico and got to do 3rd grade reading all over again. Boring and miserable and forever in trouble for having read ahead of the class and not knowing where I was supposed to start when it was my turn. Of course, the more I read the faster I got and the faster I got the more I read.
I’m certainly not a perfect mother but I think I’ve done something right: both my children are strong readers. I have an almost-eleven year old boy who reads for fun. There really isn’t a magic formula here. I read to them. They see me read. I let them read whatever they want, even if I don’t care for it. I make sure there are lots of options of reading material available to them. I talk with them about what they read. Reading with kids is great multitasking. Not only to they learn to love books but it also makes for built-in snuggle and be-together time. Even tweenage boys will get all cuddly when their defenses are washed away in excitement over Shasta creeping over a dangerous mountain pass with Aslan padding along beside him in the dark.
Reading is the only safe addiction left me now. I can read all I want and not worry about it snowballing into a nightmare. But a really good story has about the same compulsion on me. I get to a point in a good novel where I.Can.Not.Put.It.Down. Luckily books are finite and even the escapist ones still encourage empathetic thinking and emotional engagement. They do, however, tend to leave me with a bit of a hangover.
Now, this is nothing like the misery of a morning-after-a-bottle-of-vodka hangover. No, this is a flat feeling, an emptiness that those characters are gone, a bit of disorientation to be out of their world and back in my own. A bit of eye strain and slight headache. Unlike a drinking hangover I have something to show for my time, I remember both what happened in my life and what happened in book life with crisp clarity, I’ve learned and traveled and felt.
I never was a black-out drunk and never did manage to ingest enough dope to forget. I always wanted to. I tried really, really hard. It never worked for me. Reality went right along with me and my observing-to-write-about-it-later brain kept right along at it the whole time. This is something I’ve noticed about writers, generally we hate drama in our own lives but no matter what we go through or have going on around us there is this division in our brains where some little piece of ourselves knows just to take it all in in case it makes good writing later. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of writing we do, reporters, novelists, memorists, essayist, poets, we all are observers in a way “normal” people aren’t.
This might be a huge part of what drives good reading for me, I get to come along as an observer in some sense. Everything I read gets cataloged in case it turns into inspiration later. Especially mythology. The kind of reading that makes a great many people groan is the meat and potatoes of connections and metaphors for me. Some of the best sources are the Bible and Bullfinches Mythology.
But today, today I think I’m going to take it easy on my eyes and not start another novel. Reality beckons, as does my huge pile of non-fiction. Not to mention that I have four books in my waiting-to-review pile.
How do you feel when you’ve finished a good story?