Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Biblio Files, Part Three: Ex Libris ggSpirit and Valerie Brooks ...
All this week at the Den we’ll be exploring our love affair with reading through various contributors. I’ve asked a diverse group of people what their thoughts are on books, and how they’ve inspired us.
Up next, guest posts by ggSpirit and Valerie Brooks, two terrific writers who have graciously agreed to tell us about why they love books. Hope you enjoy it...
CONFESSIONS OF A BRAZEN BOOK WHORE
by Valerie Brooks
It’s a sign of an insane mind, I know. I don’t deny it. I suppose I am genetically inclined to accept this madness. It is my Father’s fault after all. He suffers from this insanity too. It’s a frenzied desire to consume and own all of the knowledge, the fantasy, the intriguing notions of another’s mind.
I have a vague recollection of being a small child, sneaking his books so I could look at them. There was one filled with artwork; I remember staring at Rembrandt and his paintings, fascinated with the colors, the sharp lines, and hoping one day I could see the real thing. I wanted to meet this man. I wanted to watch him paint. Little did I know at the time it would be an impossibility.
I was amazed when I found a copy of Sherlock Holmes that had the inside covers imprinted with the initials V.R. I knew that book was just for me, it was stamped with MY initials!! AND I knew who Sherlock Holmes was!! I wondered how the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, knew my name?? Oh to be a child again, with the world’s wonders at your fingertips!!
The first “big people” book I ever tried to read was The Iliad. I got into quite a bit of trouble for sneaking this book. “I’m glad you want to read, but you don’t understand!! This is a collector’s edition!!” My Father berated me, then walked out of my room. I had no clue what a “collector’s edition” was, but it made me like that book even more. So much so, I convinced my Father to give it up to me, along with my personalized edition of Sherlock Holmes, as a going away gift when I had grown and left home.
I’d like to claim that my collecting obsession began at this point in my life, at the ripe old age of 17, but I’d be lying. So I must backtrack again to when I was about 13 and read my first Stephen King novel. It was mental ecstasy!!! I related with the little girl who could burn things with her mind, albeit the fire department didn’t have to come clean up after me. I then found out there was a Stephen King Fan club. Birthday!! It’s all I wanted, so my Mother signed me up. Every couple of months a new King novel would arrive, right to my door step!! A beautiful hard back edition that was mine, mine MINE!!!
Since then, I have had Poe, Koontz, Shakespeare, Frost, Gibran, Tolstoy and Wordsworth. Yes I confess, I have had all of these men in my bed, plus many more. I have had more respect for each of them the morning after. I have been in relationships where I am told I love these men more than the man I am with. There was once jealousy to the point; I came home from work and found a crazy beast of a man burning my collection. Many books died that day, and many tears were shed. I still harbor a hate for a certain person for this crime against me. Bastard!
They’re very intimate to me, books. The feel of the cover in my hands, the excitement as my eyes course along each and every word. My mind conjuring images of characters, towns, worlds, snowy forests, log cabins, monsters, outside my window or in my drains, paranormal creatures, and anything the mind can imagine. Shopping for books is akin to a sexual experience for me, a really good sexual experience. Choosing who I will bring home with me is most conflicting. I can easily lose control. Wanting all of them!! Very seldom have I been let down, more often I have been left wanting more.
Many people in my life think I am odd. My books are some of the most valuable and precious things I own. They just don’t understand. In the end, I am thankful for my insanity, and work daily to perfect it. I would love to show you a picture, but I am in the middle of moving and the first thing I packed was my books. I chose the very best boxes for them, to lovingly pack them away while I envision where they will live when we get to the new place. They are the only possession that I would never leave behind. Insane? Oh yes I am, to many in this world. A book whore I shall be till the day I die!! Who’s next?
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
"...today words seduce me, tomorrow I reciprocate."
Books, reading, writing, or words for that matter, were my first love. What drew me to them? I have no idea but I know I am hooked. The first book I can remember falling in love with was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. My mother used to take us, me and my sister, to the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday afternoons. There I was, surrounded by volumes and volumes of books, large and small, thin and thick, illustrated and plain. Of course my experience at that time was limited to the children’s section and week after week I would select the same book. When prompted to choose something else I would, but I always managed to sit and repetitively read the entire book before I left the library.
Recently that book was made into a movie and nostalgia kicked in. Of course I had to take my son to go see it. The movie was okay but it did not leave me with the same impression the book had, although, to be honest, I couldn’t remember one word of the book for the life of me.
I think what I fell in love with was the world of possibilities which lie between the covers, amid the pages. The stimuli for a creative mind are abundant. I can remember as a preteen I read another book that has since been made into a movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. For the record, I was no punk – I watched horror movies and went into haunted houses without hesitation. Yet this book managed to scare the hell out of me. My imagination went wild and I started having nightmares. My parents hid the book but I found it and had to finish the thriller before my mind wrote an even scarier ending.
Beyond entertainment value, words have provided education, guidance and comfort. Sometimes when you’re going through something or need to know something or just want to feel something that no one around you seems to understand or you are not ready to share yet, reading provides the perfect accompanied solitude. Judy Blume gave me a sneak peek at puberty and feminine hygiene products, Terry McMillan helped me laugh through some painful dating experiences, James Baldwin showed me how to make sense of being black in America and E. Lynn Harris taught me I still had a lot to learn.
Above all else I think I love the written word for its ability to heal. To me, writing is therapeutic. It allows you to sit with your thoughts and feelings, pouring them onto a piece of paper much like an artist with watercolor and a blank canvas. I have written many a letter to reopen dialogue when people just stopped listening. There is something powerful about words. Yes, they can also do a lot of damage but when used correctly they can also do a lot of good.
Writing is symbiotic: today words seduce me, tomorrow I reciprocate. That’s a quote I came up with to describe my relationship with words and writing. Books seduced me into a love affair with words which led me to writing. Whether I am reading them or writing them, I am forever drawn to words. Words seduce me and just like any love affair, there are moments of joy, pain, exhilaration, anger, curiosity, humor and the list goes on.
As I writer I hope to reciprocate. I like to think when I have cleverly woven an insight or joined together words in a way not previously used, that I am replicating the climactic experience which led me to fall in love with words. There’s a line in the Matrix movie, the sequel I believe, when a man describes his love of French expletives with these words: “ It’s like wiping your ass with silk.” For me, that says it all!
Don't miss these previous posts:
The Biblio Files, Part Two, with Donna Carrick
The Biblio Files, Part One, With David Hunter and Joseph Lane