I can't seem to read for pleasure during a semester. Sure, I can knock out a quick romance novel or two during spring break, but real reading, the kind where you can immerse yourself for hours... not so much.
I love words. I love the words in my textbooks, but when I read them I must also comprehend them all. When I read for pleasure I'm allowed to simply wallow in the words, permitted to forget them the minute they're over or read one beautifully written sentence over and over. Have you ever had the lottery fantasy that involves rolling around on a bed of money? That's how I feel when I'm reading a really good book, that I'm rolling in the words or walking across the pages.
My mother read for pleasure and genuinely loves books. I can remember her lying on the couch for hours, days if necessary, immersed in a book. One of her greatest gifts has been passing that love on to me. I have long thought that if I can teach Sweet Pea to love reading and be willing to eat vegetables, I'll be 'most of the way to raising a decent person. Of course, Mom also ascribed to the theory that if I was old enough to read a book, I should be allowed to try. It's this kind of theory that made her think that letting a child watch 'Trilogy of Terror' was a good thing and I blame her for my automatonophobia.
At any rate, some of the first adult books I read were by Stephen King. To this day my all-time favorite book is 'The Stand' -- and not the unabridged version that he lamely tried to update, but the original. I liked reading about how the virus started but for me the book starts at Hap Hapscomb's gas station forever and ever amen. King is also the reason that I can't stand an open closet door at night or leaving my foot hanging off the edge of the bed, just in case a cold hand reaches out from under the bed to grasp my ankle. He put that image in my head at the age of 12 and 26 years later I haven't forgotten it.
Stephen King now writes a column for Entertainment Weekly. A few times a year he writes his 'best of' lists (summer books, music, etc) and although our tastes differ wildly in music, I have been known to literally jump for joy when I read a book list. Uncle Stevie (as he occasionally and snarkily refers to himself) will tell you his favorite books of the year or his recommendations for a season. They may have been published this year... or not. In fact, one of the books on his list is out of print (thank you, Half.com for the $.87 copy!) but I live for these lists. He introduced me to Ruth Rendell and Sandra Brown. And Cormac McCarthy... how is it possible that I went all these years without reading Cormac McCarthy's books? Of course, King also introduced me to Bentley Little and while most of Little's books that I have read are gruesome and wonderfully horrible (Read 'The Store' and try to walk around Wal-Mart or Brandsmart without a shudder) there was a point in 'The Return' when, as the mother of a four-year-old, I had to return the book without finishing it. Something so gruesome happened, something that felt so gratuitous and unnecessary, that I had to stop. And it has to be bad for me to stop. There is usually a book of poetry on his list that I try to buy. I love poetry but rarely read it -- I'm not sure why. It's like my relationship with Chinese food: if you ask me if I want Chinese food I'll probably wrinkle my nose and decline, but if we go anyway about halfway through the meal I'll turn to you and say, "What up? I LOVE Chinese food! Why can't I remember that?" That's how it is with me and poetry. Words, again... just pure words.
I feel weirdly comfortable thinking of King as 'Uncle Stevie' (please note -- I'm using a fairly smarmy, sarcastic tone in my head) because I actually have an Uncle named Steve who looks like the sketch of King in his EW column, and because I have an entire shelf of books by King. His book 'On Writing' should be required reading for everyone who has a blog (in fact, I re-read it after my essay was published and am ashamed, Internet. I did not kill my darlings.) or email or even a checkbook. If you use words, you should read that book. Stephen King's novels have been a part of my reading life for as long as I can remember and he is a mainstay on my 'ultimate dinner party' list, along with Tori Amos and Jesus.
So. The lists. When our last 'EW' came in the mail, Uncle Stevie's latest list was on the back page. As I do with the other book lists, I just ripped out the entire page and put it in my wallet. I forced myself to wait until after my last final, a treat for all my hard work. All day I hummed along, anticipating the trip to the library. I found five of the ten, I'm on the waiting list for a sixth, and I ordered two from Half.com. On the way home I was like a junkie anticipating a fix. I looked at and stroked the covers, trying to decide which one to read first. I read the synopsis, then the first sentence of each.
I have a couple of days all to myself. Next week DJ will be home but Sweet Pea still has school. The week after that my Mom will be here monopolizing Sweet Pea with her cooking and reading and movie-watching.
Guess what I'll be doing?