still scared of books

Yesterday, after watching a movie and a half, I went onto the balcony and, over the course of two sittings, read the last 300 pages of Hannibal–and I’m sparkling with a childlike pride about the fact that I read so much in one day.

I’m 28 and I’ve been an avid reader my whole life but it’s pretty rare that I get through an entire book in a day. When it does occasionally happen, the recognition should always go more toward the author than to the reader, because it was the person crafting those pages who made them fly, who kept me rooted to my seat (I’m a slow reader and a restless person). So my hat goes off to Thomas Harris for writing such a terrific book.

My hat goes off to myself too, though, because while I’ve always been an avid reader, I was also always a mediocre student. Mainly because I never did my reading, and the reason I never did my reading is because it was decidedly hopeless.

The Bookworm, Carl Spitzweg

The book itself, as an object and an idea, still intimidates me. Among my most vivid reading experiences are those of reading single sentences out of science textbooks, history and math books, and having full-bodied, writhing, hair-pulling and occasionally, as a kid, tearful reactions to how incomprehensible it all was. I remember plenty of rapturous afternoons on my living room couch, or beside a pool somewhere, discovering and exploring the books that’ve shaped who I am–but few of those are so poignant and influential as the earlier memories, third and fifth and seventh and tenth grade in particular, the printed words full of abstraction and I’d look at them knowing I was gonna fail the test about them.

So I still feel like I’ve beaten some odds when I finish a whole book, and when I finish it in a single day I feel like I just sidestepped and eluded my executioner before he even knew I was in the room.

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