Tuesday, January 12, 2010

was being a child really that much better?

along the lines of my previous post about the delights of buying pets to give your unwanted books to, this post from helen stringer at tor.com caught my eye. she wrote a piece about a week ago called "read like a child" which is absolutely worth clicking through to read. she's mostly talking about what she remembers of reading as a child when it was an immersive, absorbing experience which blocked out the rest of the world in favor of the printed page.

We no longer lose ourselves and, you know, it really isn’t fair. Why should children get all the fun?
it's a good point. i'm all in favor of kids not getting all the fun. beyond the fact that the ones i see on a regular basis rarely seem to be having any fun at all but it's hard to tell under all the winter gear this time of year. i am pleased to see that children do seem to inhabit the coolidge corner library (of which i can find no pictures, distressingly enough) on a regular basis. i'm less pleased that they're loud but these things happen, i suppose.

i do remember reading in the fashion she describes but, for whatever reason, i also don't remember it "switching off" as she does. i still read like that every now and then; granted, the book has to be really good and it isn't every book that does that but it never was, really. i think there are always going to be authors and titles that do a better job -- often at a given time and place --of grabbing your attention. i've never revisited, for example, ernest hemingway's for whom the bell tolls because i have such vivid memories of reading it while working as a 'security guard' at the 4-h exhibit hall during the skowhegan state fair one summer when i was in high school. i don't know if it would ever be able to live up to my memory of reading it that summer. perhaps it would and i'm selling it and myself short and i should try it again.

but there is also something to be said for her last suggestion of turning everything "off" to read -- i generally, out of habit more than anything else, have music or something playing as 'background noise.' most of the time i like to have something rabbiting away in the background as i do other things; it makes the apartment seem more lived-in, prevents me from wishing to rip people's throats out during the honking contests on our corner, and generally just makes life a little more fun. also, given how my memory works, it also means i memorize frighteningly large portions of things i wasn't even aware of listening to which is always fun for startling and dismaying your friends and loved ones.

still, sometimes it is lovely to turn everything off, close the laptop, let the tv be a silent black box, and go back to reading the way i did in my parents' house when i was a kid and couldn't just turn on mindless electronic entertainment whenever i wanted to.

i have to say, though, that a really good book -- y'know, the kind you don't want to put down last thing at night even when your eyes are aching and stinging a little and you know you have to get up for work in the morning but, really, just one more page... -- can pretty much block out anything else going on.

but you know one thing you probably can't do when you're a kid? you (most likely) cannot get tickets to go see eddie izzard live in concert at the banknorth garden tonight!

which i can. and have. and will. :)

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