Friday, June 11, 2010

The Biblio Files, Part Five: Ex Libris Terri Locker and Katherine Grubb and a Million Thanks ...

It's been a great week here at the Den. You may not know this, but this month marks the 1st anniversary of The Writer's Den, and I wanted to celebrate this occasion by asking a few good friends to drop by and say hello, and maybe write a few posts! I'd like to thank all our contributors for taking the time to write down their thoughts and sharing them with us. I know it's not easy to write a blog post on the spur of the moment, but they did it, and they all outdid themselves! I suppose when it comes to the subject of books you can never shut a writer up, no matter how hectic life gets.

I'd like to thank ...

Donna Carrick, AKA @Donna_Carrick on Twitter, for taknig the time out of her busy schedule to write her great post "Why Do I Love (Reading and Writing) Books?" She's made a loyal friend out of me for her effort ...

ggSpirit and Valerie Brooks, AKA @ggSpirit and @VariantVal of Twitter fame, for composing some very spirited and wonderful posts, "Where the Wild Things Are", and "Confessions of a Brazen Book Whore" ... and I am ever grateful that I can call on them anytime and they'll be there for me. I hope the feeling is mutual!

Layna Pimentel, AKA @LaynaPimentel on Twitter, is not only a sweet person, but a very industrious writer. She's always writing, and I am happy that she took time out to write her post "The Fight for Literacy."

Joseph Lane, Also Known As @JosephLane when prowling the feeds on Twitter ~ I knew his sardonic wit would be a great counterpoint to my post "A Boy and his Book", because I remain a sentimentalist, and he remains in the abstract, as he likes to say. At any rate, he came through for me with a great post called "Isaac Asimov and Beyond" which I have re-read a couple of times already.

Terri Locker and Katharine Grubb, AKA @ShadyMutton and @10MinuteWriter on Twitter, are two very fine writers, and their posts are coming up next, right after I finish babbling!

Thanks again everyone for dropping by and enjoying the Biblio Files at the Writer's Den. Please Come again soon ...

It's a Love Affair
by Terri Locker

Books and I met at a young age. I'm sure I had cute little fabric books as a baby, but it wasn't until a routine trip to the grocery that I found books for myself. The highlight of this trip to the grocery, (and every trip there after), was the 'Golden Books' display by the registers. The deal was, if I'd been helpful and behaved during the trip, I might just earn a book of my very own! Nice bribery Mom!

When I was older, my mother became a member of the Disney Club. Every week the local grocery would offer a new Disney Hardcover Book with classic Disney stories inside. Yes, we accumulated the entire set, and I read every single one of them gleefully.

I had also started to read something else. Yes, Magazines and I had a trist. We had a bi-yearly date at the dentist office where I'd get together with a whole new stack of 'Highlights' and 'Turtle Magazines. I loved the stories with little pictures inserted for words. and was inspired by the poems from other kids like me so much that I submitted a poem of my own. I was so excited when I was published in an issue of 'Turtle' magazine! Unfortunately, the copy I had of that issue is now long gone, but far from forgotten. Magazines and I still get together and spend a little time catching up every once in a while.

Somewhere during this time, my relationship with Books became more serious. We regularly began meeting at the library for Saturday story time and summer reading programs. I'll admit signing my name to my own Library Card was my first experience of responsibility to the outside world. Now we had a serious commitment. It got to the point where I was choosing Books over television. I know, but we had a real love, and it was still growing.

Books have introduced me to some very good lifelong friends. Disney, who told me great stories; Dr. Seuss, who allowed silliness and fun into reading; Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys, who let me practice my own deductive reasoning and witness empowerment of young people; Edgar Rice Burroughs, who drew fabulous and intricate worlds that my imagination could actually see using only his words; Edgar Allen Poe, who showed the true artisan ability of the written word; Erica Jong, who introduced sensuality to a teenage girls life; Ayn Rand, who asked me to look inside myself and think on levels I didn't know I had.. and there is so much more for our future. Books and I will always share something special. They are my source for escape, humor, enlightenment, discovery, commiseration, relaxation, entertainment, joy, information, inspiration, imagery, and perspective. My relationship with books is stimulating, comforting, and sometimes surprising and they will always be a welcome friend.

Books, I love you.

~Gimme a Hug~

~For the Black Sheep in all of us~

Louisa, Laura and Me
by Katharine Grubb

"...They had a destiny to write, they must have known they would be famous. I thought, through that biography, Louisa May Alcott was calling me to write too ..."

I grew up in the middle of the Bible Belt. This meant that I went to church with my family twice on Sunday and on Wednesday night. My church had a “library” in the lobby that housed a small collection of books. I always assumed the books were for children to pick up and thumb through during the services, so that’s what I did.

On the chapter book shelf, in a faded cloth cover, was a biography: Louisa May Alcott. I didn’t know that the book was part of a series -- Childhood of Famous Americans. All I knew was that the cover showed a girl in an old-fashioned dress sitting at a desk, writing. What was not to love? This was the ’70’s. I was already immersed with Little House On The Prairie on television and collected Holly Hobbie dolls. Louisa May Alcott probably owned a bonnet, so she was already a friend.

I read this book all through the church service. I was fascinated by her life, which was vastly different from mine. She had sisters. I had a brother. She lived in an exotic location -- Massachusetts. I lived in Oklahoma. She wrote stories, grew up, wrote more stories and became famous. I went to church and daydreamed about writing. I put Alcott with Laura Ingalls Wilder -- real people who wrote about their lives and were published. They had a destiny to write, they must have known they would be famous. I thought, through that biography, Louisa May Alcott was calling me to write too.

I read this book repeatedly during church. I regret that I never had my own copy of it. Sadly, the updated versions of the books have a garish red, white and blue cover, not the faded orange cloth I treasured. (Ebay, you and I need to talk.)

As I grew up, I read all the Little House books, Little Women, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and all those pre-teen angst type books that were threadbare in my school library. I also collected Peanuts comics, wept through The Diary of Anne Frank, and read through my fourth grade teacher’s set of World Book Encyclopedia for fun.

I knew I would write someday. Eventually, I wrote for my high school newspaper and yearbook. I went to college on writing scholarship. I left journalism school disappointed that they didn’t coddle me in the same way my small town teachers did. After years of detours and unusual writing assignments, I find myself now, in Boston, Massachusetts, blogging, raising my family and writing my first novel.

Someday I’ll hold my own book in my hands, just I did Alcott’s biography. Maybe I’ll do something sappy, like take a copy to her grave in Concord, MA or dedicate it to “L.A.M.” Or maybe I’ll put in the hands my kids or their friends and say, enjoy. Follow your dreams. Write and be happy.

But please, try to pay attention in church.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Biblio Files, Part Four: Ex Libris Layna Pimentel

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.

Coming up after this post by yours truly is Layna Pimentel, who has graciously agreed to appear here and write about why she loves books, and the importance of literacy for children. Hope you enjoy Part Four of the Biblio Files ...

The Desert Island Game
By David Hunter

If you could only have one book while stranded on a desert island what would you choose?

For an inveterate reader like me this is a hellish question – stranded on an island? With only one book?? Just hang me now?

This question has been asked of many things; music, food – but what about books? What book would you choose to spend all that time – maybe years – reading before you go mad and toss it into the ocean or off a cliff (an impossibility: I’d never toss a book off a cliff. I’d just keep reading it …) as a voracious consumer of the written word I always need something to keep my eyes busy. If there’s nothing else around, I’ll even read a detergent label to sate my soul. Any port in a storm, I always say.

So what would you choose? Here are some types of books that you might get stuck with. Please remember, I have a penchant for the absurd.

A Phone Book
You’d never finish it!

A James Joyce, or a James Michener book
These tomes are generally 1000 + pages … by the time you start re-reading them you’ll have forgotten what happened at the beginning.

The Back of a Cereal Box
I’d just have to kill myself. Or read the bark on a tree.

A Copy of Reader’s Digest
Those 'Life’s Like That' pages never get old!

A Biology Book
Well, it’s no Gone with the Wind, but you’ll learn something! You’ll be dissecting wild-life on that desert island in no time.

Algebra for Dummies
Just hang me.

Encyclopedia Britannica Vol M-P
It doesn’t get any worse.

Any Book, as long as it’s a big fat one with 1200 pages

An instruction book on how to build a raft and get off of a deserted island before you go crazy because you have nothing to read.

A Graphic Novel
Now we’re talking! You can look at pictures all day!

A Hardy Boys Mystery
As long as the pages are thin enough to cut my throat with.

A Brain Teaser Book
What if it’s too hot to think?

A Large Webster’s Dictionary
I’m probably the only person who would choose this.

Canadian Tax Code Book for 1978
You could easily use the pages from this book to build a fire to keep warm with!

The Cat in the Hat
I could only Imagine how my brain would atrophy after being stuck on a deserted island with this book for 5 years.

Shakespeare, Whitman, or maybe Ginsberg
A book of poetry is always a good choice of reading on a deserted island – you can recite verse to the trees!

The Screenplay to Ishtar
Generally I wouldn’t mind being stuck on an island with a screenplay as my only source of reading material as long as that screenplay is not Ishtar.

In all seriousness …

So, what would you choose? I’m looking forward to hearing what kind of books some of you would pick to be stranded with. As I type this, I am really struggling to choose one myself.

One book to spend 5 years with …

Your comments are welcome!

As promised, here's our guest post today, by Layna Pimentel ...

The Fight for Literacy
by Layna Pimentel

"..libraries are overwhelmed with out-dated materials and the only ones who are suffering are our children ..."

So, the question of the day is, why do I love books. There are far too many reasons to list, but here goes.

While people go to the gym, shop, eat and drink to de-stress, I read. It’s the only way I know how to relax without having to drag a bathtub around. Besides, you can fit a paperback novel into your purse with ease and take it anywhere with you. You never know when you’re going to get stuck in that traffic jam for a few hours or be in a line up at the grocery store.

There’s something calming about taking a time-out in the middle of the work day, to sit outside under a tree and completely surrender to a good book. It gives you an opportunity to unwind, before tackling that dreaded report you’ve only been staring at for the last four hours.

Other than a midday distraction, one of my other reasons for reading is to escape, and not to Fantasy Island. I don’t care who you are, but all of us can admit to wishing we were someone else for just a little while. Whether it's the damsel in distress, or a Wizard just about to unleash something truly wicked. We’ve all had a moment or two where we’ve imagined what we would do in that situation instead of this character.

You’re probably thinking I’m out of my mind, but kids aren’t the only ones allowed to have those kinds of thoughts or imagination. Whether you’re a published author or not, I think it’s fantastic when you can invoke that kind of emotion in someone. You’re no longer reading just a line on a page, but an experience that draws you in and creates an adventure all your own.

While books can take up plenty of space, they’ll last a lot longer than a child’s favorite stuffed animal or a pair of stiletto’s, which will be out of style by next month. So why not love them?

You don’t have to buy them, you could borrow from the library for free, or you can also swap books with friends. The nice thing about swapping them is you’re likely to get a good one if your friend enjoyed it and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted a few bucks.

While I’ve probably given you more than enough reasons why I love books, I just wish there wasn’t the nagging thought in the back of my head of how many Canadians don’t actually get to enjoy reading them because of their lack of literacy skills.

For example, did you know that back in 2005 approximately 9 million Canadian’s had low literacy skills? I’ll be honest, I was taken aback with that figure. I would have never thought there were that many people missing out on the simple pleasure of reading a novel.

Did you also know that in 2001 teachers and principals spent $143 million dollars of their own money to buy books and learning materials for their students? I can’t begin to tell you how much the fact saddens me. Our school libraries are overwhelmed with out-dated materials and the only ones who are suffering are our children.

It’s so sad when we take in to account how fortunate we are, and yet we’re still faced with these problems. I’m a firm believer that change starts at home, and only then will it branch out from there.

For more information on how you can help out our schools and World Literacy Canada, check out the links at the end of this post.

Well, now it’s my turn to ask you the question, why do you love books? And if you say they make excellent paper weights, I really don’t know how well I’d take that as an answer. Please feel free to leave a comment, your feedback is always appreciated.

Layna Pimentel

Links to check out:

Indigo Love of Reading Foundation

World Literacy of Canada

Related Madness -- Don't miss these previous posts:
The Biblio Files, Part Three, With Valerie Brooks and ggSpirit
The Biblio Files, Part Two, with Donna Carrick
The Biblio Files, Part One, With David Hunter and Joseph Lane

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...

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?

by ggSpirit

" 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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Biblio Files, Part Two: Ex Libris Donna Carrick

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.

Without further ado, I am happy to present author Donna Carrick ...

Why Do I Love (Reading and Writing) Books?
by Donna Carrick

Whew – this is a loaded question!

When Twitter pal and fellow book-lover David Hunter (known to his friends as @TheWritersDen) asked me to participate in this week’s discussion, I jumped at the chance. After all, I’m a bibliophile, right? Surely, with the exception of family, there can be no greater love than the one I feel for the stories I harbour in my memory.

Then I re-read David’s request. Took a second look, so to speak. Realised the crux of the question was not ‘whether’, ‘how’ or ‘how much’ I love books, but WHY I love them. Oooh – that’s a tough one…

Books have always played a central role in my life. I’ve never considered existing without them. The thought is terrifying. From the moment I learned to read, I’ve always had a book in my hand, purse, or on my nightstand. I don’t know what it’s like not to be part way through a book, with another waiting to be read.

On top of that, I’ve published three mysteries and I’m married to a writer! (Insurance, perhaps, against the fear of having nothing to read?)

My parents were not big readers. My father grew up during the Great Depression and was lucky to have achieved a grade eight education. My mother surpassed him with her grade eleven, but was forced to leave high school prior to graduation to care for her mother.

They could both read quite well, but I don’t recall ever seeing them do so for pleasure. Their primary printed resource was the T. Eaton’s Catalogue, hardly the literary playground of princely imaginations.

After their deaths I discovered boxes filled with reams of curled up pages wrapped lovingly in satin ribbons – letters from my father to my mother written in the early days of their relationship. Thousands of pages, composed by a young man separated from his sweetheart, an expression of his yearning and isolation, crafted in places as lonesome and unreachable as Moisie, Quebec and Cold Lake, Alberta.

As a child I read constantly. Even now, if I listen closely, I can hear my mother calling, “Get your nose out of that book, Donna, and come to dinner!”

Why the intense passion for writing? Was it merely an extension of my love for reading? Or was it some innate driving force passed down by my father?

I wasn’t aware of it then, but my love for books was a clich├ęd desire for escape. My family was not a happy one. There are parts of my childhood that I still find impossible to speak about. Books carried me away to other lands, to other families, to times of nobility and beauty and grace. Times of heroism and even of simple respect.

That explains my love of reading. I can still recall the power those words lent to a frightened child – still hear the rush of freedom in my ears as I was transported by those stories.

I suppose I write the stories I used to read, the stories that explain who I am, why I am and what is to become of me. Of course, I do so through the convenient vehicle we call characters – each one possessing his share of nobility and his own tenuous understanding of the human condition.

In the end, for me at least, the reasons I write are quite separate from my love for reading. I read for the thrill of escape, to be swept away from the everyday routines into the greater landscape of ‘imagination’.

When I write, though, I am often keenly aware of the lost child within. I become someone else, someone with greater courage and the will to battle the wrongs of this world.

I write, quite simply, to say the things I cannot say aloud.

Donna Carrick is the author of three literary mysteries: The First Excellence, Gold And Fishes and The Noon God. Donna's books are available through or at her Website: .

You can Tweet with Donna @Donna_Carrick or join me on FaceBook.

Donna Carrick

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Biblio Files: Part One

Ex Libris: A Bookish Love Affair
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, why they mean so much, and how they’ve inspired us.
A Boy and his Book
by David Hunter

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it ~ Edward P. Morgan
When I was 12 my mother took us to a Shelter for Abused Women. My father, a violent alcoholic, had finally forced her to leave after coming home drunk and destroying the house in a blind rage. And by forced, I mean literally fleeing out the door at 3 am on a cold October night, two children in hand, nowhere to go.

The shelter was a warm and safe haven. We arrived in the rain soaking wet at the front door and they took us in and fed us. While my mother talked to the counselors, they gave me and my little sister a room and we fell asleep. I was 12, and scared; we had left everything behind; toys, friends, books; our whole life.

I wasn’t a big reader of novels as a kid; I read the usual stuff -- Spider-man and Archie comics -- I read a lot of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume too, Including a very racy copy of Wifey that my mom had left lying around (The image of Frank the Plumber doing the nasty with Wifey still haunts my memories) but there in the confines of the Shelter was a large reading room, complete with about 4 million books. It was warm there, even though you could see the cold autumn day through the large bay widow. I spent hours wandering through those books – there were so many. I finally picked up this one book that had an illustrated cover of an explosion – It was called The Monkey Wrench Gang, by some guy named Edward Abbey.

This book was a revelation for me!

It had curse words!

I must admit, I didn’t understand the sub-text; it was far too dense and mature for my age level. Plus, one of the counselors kept taking it away from me. But I kept going back for it. Sometimes I’d sit and stare at that cover, and at that name, Edward Abbey. I’d wonder who he was. I had this impression that he was from England or something; I guess when you’re twelve, logic takes long hikes and forgets to come home. When I finally had access to this thing called Internet, long about 2001, I searched for him, and finally found out who he was. I was more than a little sad to find he had passed away in 1989. It was kind of like a friend had died, without me knowing.

That book had me mesmerized though; I loved the pages, the words, the paragraphs, the peculiar algorithm of the spaces, and I instantly wanted to write a book too. When I spotted the electric Olivetti typewriter in one of the offices I asked if I could use it to write stories. They were very encouraging; they let me sit in there for hours, typing away to my heart’s desire. It was my escape. Something was illuminated when I played with words. And all that other stuff just melted away.

When we left the shelter weeks later, after my Mother had found a place, I liberated that book. I snuck it out with me, inside my jacket.

It wasn’t until High School a few years later that I found it again amongst all my things, and I read it for the first time, REALLY read it; I was slightly more literate and able to understand it. This time there was no mistaking the sub-text; Phrases jumped out at me, ideas, inspirations. This book made me want to write. And every time I read it, I get the same tingling sensation; the need to grab a pen and start scribbling.

Edward Abbey may not have written a great classic, but for me, it saved my immortal soul. Probably too dramatic, and I wish I were talking about something with a little more Americana to it, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Grapes of Wrath, but this is my story Jack, and I’m sticking to it.

I’m proud to say I still have this book. Its a little care worn; the cover isn’t doing too well, and page 231 is now a loose leaf. I had to buy a back up copy because it’s now too fragile to carry around with me to the beaches and coffee shops I frequently haunt (okay, I have TWO back-up copies!) It’s sitting beside me right now as I write this, like an old friend seeing me through the recollections, keeping me company. Our 30 year friendship continues.

The crux of this post is, why do we love books?

Stephen King says he reads to study the craft, but he also reads because he enjoys reading.

Me? I can only answer as a writer; my desire to create my own worlds and characters is overwhelming, and I take pleasure in the works of others, a kind of voyeuristic pleasure. I like to see what other writers are up to, and when I find those rare sorts of books that resonate with me, they make me want to create. But if I were to answer as a plain old reader, the answer would be simple; sometimes I just want to be whisked away, to go gallivanting through the pages of history with the many characters that I’ve come to love and admire. I read because writing is hard enough without that back-knowledge of literature; Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield, The Joads – all have been goods friends to me, gotten me through some tough times.

They all stand at my back as I write for the future.

I am enormously grateful to have a wonderful line-up of guests at the Den this week. Today I’m happy to present Joseph Lane’s ruminations on his love of books, and what they mean to him. Hope you enjoy! I know I did.

Isaac Asimov and Beyond
by Joseph Lane

'Happiness is doing it rotten your own way.' ~ Isaac Asimov

I wasn't always a bibliophile. When I was in high school I rarely read the literature the English teacher assigned. It seemed like work. I hated the idea that I was expected to consume something that I didn't yet yearn for. That, and well, I was lazy. I had a knack for writing essays high on bullshit and light on content. I still have that skill, hell it's become my life's work... but where was I? Oh yes, books. I didn't become an avid reader until the summer after I graduated from high school. I was a late bloomer. My English teachers weren't to blame. They exposed me to 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Old Man and The Sea, lots of Shakespeare. I was not spared the opportunity, I just hadn't found the intellectual drive to read yet.

The summer after my graduation I got a job working with a nonprofit arts organization. They operated in the basement of a small defunct church. The job had me doing a lot of office administration stuff. There was photocopying, stamp licking, letter mailing; I once had to book plane tickets and accommodations for Farley Mowat. Fun. I spent most of my time, however, reading sci-fi and organizing used books which we sold out of the basement. My love for books grew, I believe, because I was surrounded by them. I can still smell those musty old books. There were boxes and boxes of them. I bet I touched and thumbed through each and every one of them, even the Reader's Digest Condensed Books, The Harlequin Romances, and the Louis L'Amours, all of which seemed to be in infinite supply.

I was hooked on sci-fi at first. I read every little bit I could find. I found sci-fi easy to read, I could go through a book every day or so. Along the way I bumped into Vonnegut, who at my tender age of 18, seemed to me to be egomaniacal and prickish. Hey, I was young, we all go through stages. Isaac Asimov was my favorite. My father was also a fan. I recognized his name from books that were found in the bathrooms and on bookshelves of my youth.

I quickly outgrew sci-fi: by midsummer I had moved on to physics, spirituality, and comparative religion. Big jump? Nah, they are not all that different in theme or content than sci-fi. They were all chasing the same ghost. I found Buddhism, I found Ginsberg. I read Howl, the gateway to the Beats. Ginsberg lead to Kerouac, Kerouac to Burroughs, Burroughs to Kesey, Kesey to Hesse, Hesse to Dostoevsky, Dostoevsky to Camus, etc, etc. Hunter S. Thompson arrived as if through osmosis. Vonnegut was rediscovered.

The purist in me would love to proclaim that I became the reader and the writer I am now because of an early run with Holden Caulfield, or perhaps the tragic story of Piggy and his broken glasses, but that would be a lie. My love of books started with Isaac Asimov. It quickly grew from there, but it was his stories, and those of his 50¢ a paperback colleagues, that gave me the itch. I have been scratching myself raw ever since. Thank you Mr. Asimov.

~The Writers Den on Twitter~

~The Writers Den on Twitter~
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