Reading as a Critical Necessity

You had to become a reader in my family. And not just a magazine article in the doctor’s waiting room or Reader’s Digest Laff of the Week kind of reader. Oh, no. It was inevitable that you become a voracious, no holds barred, classics-to-max, flashlight under the covers, can’t-hear-anyone-I’m-in-a-book type of reader. And so I did.

When I had drained the elementary school library dry (except for books like “Orchids for Sue’s First Dance” or “Billy’s Paper Route Adventure” – though that was long ago, I’m sure there are similarly stupid titles on shelves today, possibly about vampires going to dances), my father took me to a large public library. He had earnestly done his research and compiled a list of classic stories to check out. To this day I remember the way the sun came through the high windows, the smell of pagedust, the sibiliance of library-appropriate whispers. Sigh.

And just to seal the deal, the family had a genetic propensity toward the dramatic. Oratory. Declamation. Articulate delivery of beloved words. Reading Aloud With Effect. So that, when I scanned the small, black squiggles they became, in my head, technicolor epics. I laughed, cried, quested, loved. Was offended, relieved, enraged, ennobled, inspired, uplifted, depressed, redeemed.