Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fact: It’s difficult to part with fiction

April 14, 2011

Taking a break from work and I end up spring cleaning. The first to be cleared out are books.

I read at least four books a week, so over the years I have accumulated a fair number.

Not that I haven’t cleared them out before. I have donated two entire libraries of textbooks to two different local colleges. I can’t say as I missed those books; as soon as I donated one, another took its place.

With fiction, however, it’s another story. I have had trouble sorting and clearing out my shelves. Books become friends. Sounds silly to say so, but it’s true. For most of my books, I remember when I bought them, where I was when I read them, and my impression of the characters, the storyline and author. The voice of the author becomes even more familiar in the re-reading, which I often do.

I have favorite authors: Willa Cather, Karen Armstrong, Arthur Conan Doyle, Shel Silverstein, Anne Tyler, Beryl Markham, Elie Wiesel, Fannie Flag, Jane Yolen and, more recently, Alexander McCall Smith. Books by these authors I will not part with — not yet, anyway.

I remember the first book I read. I was 4 and took to reading like a duck to water. I even read to the neighbor kids who had not yet learned to read. What I could not read, I made up.

I can tell, in working with children, those who have been read to and those who have not.

In spite of technologies, reading a book in hand imparts a different experience to the reader. I may change my mind as I foray into technology but for the present, I stand firm in my conviction that reading a book, turning the pages, holding the binding in one’s hands brings the reader closer to the author and to the creative experience.

A friend of mine, Jane Yolen, is an accomplished, international writer and speaker. When she recently learned that a young client of mine was a fan of hers, she sent a box of out-of-print books to share with him. I can tell you that handing those books over to this youngster and the personal contact with the author that it represented will be a moment I will long remember, as will that youngster.

The relationship between a reader and a writer is a sacred trust. It is not just a story being told. It is a world being created in which the reader trusts the author and the author trusts the reader to take a walk of faith into an unknown world. Cultures have been created, and lives lost in the protection of books. I sort my books carefully, one by one. It seems an important task.


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