I am a person of excess. I think I’ve always been this way but it is more noticeable now that I have fewer people setting boundaries for me. I have only the husband and myself to please most of the time, and even he is a big boy and can manage by himself. So I do, on occasion give in to my excessive nature.
Most recently it was in the form of book reading. It’s not that I get a lot of reading done – I probably average a book a month. But for me, if it is a good book, starting it means finishing it. I am hardly able to put it down and often I simply don’t. I stay up ridiculously late, hide away in the bathroom for hours, read standing up, sitting down, while I’m doing whatever else I absolutely have to do. I’m aware that I’m ignoring everything and everyone and really have this feeling of captive shame. But what can I do?
I remember when it started. I was in fifth grade and discovered science fiction. On Fridays I would go to the library at school and look for books by Heinlein, checking out as many as I could at one time. I know lots of people talk about reading under the covers with a flashlight when they were young, when they were supposed to be sleeping. Only I would read until the book was done. And when I started reading Michener it was tortuous because his books were so long. But I would always say “well, just one more chapter”. That’s the way it is with books – they happen so much faster than life is really lived. I could see what was coming, or the mystery that was developing. I would know that it was all there, the excitement, the resolution and I had to have it, now, non-stop. Made to put the book down, I was irritable and impatient.
I’m afraid it was noticed even more when my girls were around four and six years old. Their attention spans would last as long as I could stand to read aloud to them. I would come downstairs after reading for hours and putting them to bed and the husband would be incredulous. “You guys were reading all that time?’ It was our escape – chasing bad guys with Frank and Joe Hardy, riding the Black Stallion, eating grubs (eew!) with the Swiss Family Robinson. I’ve mellowed some, but mostly what that means is that I look at my calendar before bringing a good book into the house.
Books, stories give me so much to think about, especially when the author is skilled and becomes invisible. I no longer see them because I am inside their head, looking out through their eyes. They tell the story so well that nothing about their language or style distracts from their story. I walk in their shoes, live their life. And I let many of those books change me.
That is the kind of writer I want to be. But I think I need a life-changing story… It sounds hard and I’ll have to think on this a bit.
Some books I have felt this way about:
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Glass Castle, and Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Wald
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
While I Was Gone by Sue Miller