Why Mommy can’t read

My father built floor to ceiling cupboards along the walls when he closed in the garage of my childhood home.  The top shelf of these storage units was four feet from the ceiling, just enough space for a fourth grader to comfortably nest.  I would climb to that top shelf with a blanket, a pillow, a flashlight, a jar of marshmallow fluff, and a book. Everything a ten year old girl needs for happiness.

And I was happy when I was holed away in my little nest.  It was my space. My quiet time.  My place where I could be wholly myself with no roles to play. And as the only girl in a family with four boys, it was a safe place for me to be girly.

But mostly it was about the books.

I loved to read.  I went through several books a week, often reading an entire chapter book in one sitting.  I loved the Little House on the Prairie series, Little Women, Little Men, and the rest of the Louisa May Alcott books, Kidnapped, Heidi, The Swiss Family Robinson.

I loved to read.  Past tense.

Somewhere along the way I lost the joy of reading.  Maybe all those years of mutlitasking caught up with me, because now when I sit down to read, I can’t just read.  I have to be doing something else at the same time.  If I try to read without some other distraction, my mind will find one anyway.

Maybe the the ability to enjoy a book has been educated out of me.  Oh, I can plow through a book in record time if it’s for school.  But the intensity of reading for data, studying for exams, and culling information for papers has left me impatient with florid writing styles that take their time in revealing information. Give me the facts, preferably in a bulleted format.

I suppose I could also blame this on chemo brain, which is a very real condition that makes it much more difficult for those who have endured chemotherapy to retain and quickly process information.  But in truth, this situation began a long time before I knew I had cancer.

The frustration in all of this is the fact that the love of reading is tied up in my self image.  I think of myself as someone who loves to read.  I present myself to the world as someone who loves to read.  The amount of money I spend on library fines and book stores would suggest that I’m the kind of person who loves to read.

What I love, it turns out, is the potential of a good book.  Oh, and the cover.  I love to judge a book by it’s cover.  There’s nothing like finding a great cover paired with a well written blurb on the back to get my fingertips tingling.  Oh, this is going to be good.

And it is, usually. For the first 20 minutes.  If I make it that far.  But odds are my toddler will climb to the top of the bookshelf, or I’ll realize it’s 6pm and I haven’t figured out what’s for dinner yet, or I’ll notice the polish on my toes is chipped, and this is just taking too long anyways.

What I really want to read is:

  • I was sad and my life was a mess
  • I got my hands on an unrealistic amount of money
  • I went to Italy and ate a lot of food
  • I went to India and met a very wise redneck from Texas
  • I went to Indonesia and fell in love
  • bulletpoints.
See, was that so hard?

But I hate that.  The snob in me is cringing at what I just wrote.  The snob in me wants to analyze Eat, Pray, Love, to argue about it and disect it and, and, and, … but that means I have to come up with the attention span I had in fourth grade – an attention span long enough to actually finish a book.

I love books.  I love the idea of books.  I want to love reading books.  I miss loving reading books.  I want to love reading books again.

Has anyone else lost and refound their book mojo?  How did you do it?

Banned Books Week

When thinking of banned and contested books, it’s easy to conjure up images of the repression that existed in America during the 1950s. Sure, we’ve all heard of the book burning parties, and we all know that Diary of Anne Frank and Of Mice and Men
were banned back in the day.

But the repression hasn’t ended.

The assault on knowledge and ideas and discussion and diversity marches on. In 21st Century America book burning parties continue, as do attempts at banning books in libraries.

Here is a partial list of the banned and contested books from just this past year.

    Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Indian kid goes to an all white school.

    Anonymous. Go Ask Alice. Don’t do drugs.

    Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. War is violent.

    Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. All’s fair in love and war – one of my favorite books

    Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. I think everyone should read this book.

    Maguire, Gregory. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Tells the other side of the story of the Wizard of Oz.

    Meyer, Stephenie H. The Twilight Series. Vampires from a Mormon’s perspective.

    Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. Little sister doesn’t want to donate her kidney.

    Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. Religion can have a dark side.

    Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell. And Tango Makes Three. The world is not suffering from too much love.

    Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. I am no fan of Holden, but I understand his frustration with hypocrisy.

    Seierstad, Åsne. The Bookseller of Kabul. This book was infuriating at times, but it made me think.

    Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. resilience.

The irony of book banning is that it’s one of the best ways to get someone to read a book they otherwise might not consider. Read a banned book this week. Check with your local library for more information.

What is your favorite banned book?

I think mine has to be The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s more relevant today than it was when it was written.

Purge & Binge

So lately we’ve been buying a lot of books and they’re starting to stack up. This afternoon Mr. H and I looked at each other and around the book pit we call our home and decided that we can’t bring another book into this house until we take at least two boxes of books out.

I started with the computer books and that was easy. Why on earth do I still have a copy of WordPerfect for Windows 97 when I don’t even have WordPerfect installed on any of my current computers? Then there’s several variations on C++ the easy way which I never actually got around to learning. And Windows 2000 Professional Server for a computer named HAL that spontaneously combusted several years ago. Ah the memories. Chucked them and most of the other computer books in a box and made a nice little space for more computer toys.

Now on to the rest of my book collection, because that only took care of one box. Which of my childred to cast aside… There are the textbooks – although most of them are outdated and most used book stores wont take them, but we’ll give it a shot at least for the books from classes where I hated the professor. Well that topic was fascinating though so I’ll keep that one. And I wrote all over in this one, and well we’ll see if they’ll buy these four.

Then I hunted around and found another 10 books that I thought I might be able to part with to complete filling the second box. Don’t get me wrong. There are quite a few books in here that you could remove from my house and I wouldn’t even know they were gone. There are books that are completely uninspired that I started reading and will probably never, ever finish. There are books that I will probably never actually start reading (in addition to the textbooks). But this was a big emotional event for me and I think 2 boxes of books is enough gut wrenching for one day. So we packed up our books and took them down to half price books.

They said it would take 20 minutes to come up with a quote, so while we were waiting we did some browsing. Mr. H found a copy of the Holy Bible printed in Persian in the Arabic section (can’t expect these guys to be able to distinguish Arabic from Farsi). That’s a pretty rare, and a pretty cool find. Is it wierd that it turns me on that my husband can read to me from the bible in farsi? It’s like the scene in A Fish Called Wanda where she keeps telling him to talk to her in russian…I wandered around and found a book by Dave Eggers I hadn’t read yet “how we are hungry” well I can’t not get that. I love, LOVE Dave Eggers. I would have married him but then I met my husband and dave eggers still doesnt know I exist. And dave eggers probably couldnt read to me from the bible in farsi anyways.

I looked a little further and found a book called “No Touch Monkey! and other travel lessons I learned too late” by Ayun Halliday. I had never heard of the author or the book before but I opened it to a random page and laughed out loud – turned to another page and laughed out loud again. I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

The total for the two boxes of books came to $13.75 and our purchases cost $17.30, which means it only cost us $3.55 to unload those books and now we have space to bring home even more books.

The DaVinci Code

I read The Da Vinci Code when it first came out. I bought the book and sat down and read it cover to cover in a day while I was on vacation. Then I read it again. The second time I read the book I was near a computer so I took the time to look up the art and some of the concepts referenced in the book. (There’s a newer version out now, with pictures of the referenced art work – I recommend the newer version if you can get your hands on it.)

It’s a good book. I read it cover to cover in a day and I need a riveting plot to get that done. But the plot is the best part of this book. It’s the plot that made it a best seller; the prose is ham-handed and he could have really used some help with line editing. But a good plot makes up for that – and should make for a good movie as you can breeze past the excessive use of adverbs and adjectives and just show what happened.

Controversy? Of course there’s controversy. And that helps with selling books. I read Satanic Verses because of the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie (excellent book, by the way). I read banned books. Controversy is the best way to get read.

Here’s what I think:

  1. The book is a work of fiction. do not use this book for spiritual guidance, that’s not its purpose, it is made for entertainment.
  2. The controversy is not new – it’s as old as the nicene creed.
  3. The church will survive the exposure.
  4. This book gets people thinking and talking (and unfortunately, some people talking without thinking).
  5. If this book makes you think and even question your faith, that’s good. Unthinking and unquestioned faith is one of the sources of our current problems in the world (and yes, I mean Christians too).
  6. Use your brain. Try to avoid knee-jerk reactions.

Bebe’s Book; progress

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had come up with (what I think is) a brilliant idea for Bebe’s birthday – a book celebrating Bebe and the number four.

So I’ve been calling around to get people to submit photos for this project. My dad apparently had a great deal of fun coming up with somthing to submit for the book – he submitted the following:

For this picture, the caption will say:
“Grandpa has four hands.”

His next submission for the project was this:

I still haven’t figured out what the caption will be…

Any suggestions?

How scary is that orange wall?