Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book worm

My daughter spent much of the holiday buried in a good book. Seeing her curled up on the couch reading, totally oblivious to the rest of the world, reminded me of myself when I was her age.

During the holidays, I would find a cozy out-of-the-way spot to read, while my rowdy boy cousins wrestled, tossed the football and occasionally commented, “You mean you actually like to read? No one is making you?”

I remember when I was very young, I really liked comic books and would beg my mother to read them to me over and over, which she did with an infinite amount of patience, until finally one day the small print got the best of her, and she exclaimed, “I’ll be so glad when you learn how to read!”

Soon after, I was flying solo. I would walk around the house with a book in my hand. I could go the kitchen and fix myself an iced tea (using ice trays, mind you) without skipping a sentence. Sometimes my mother would ask me to get the mail, I’m sure to keep my blood circulating, and I would walk out to the mailbox, reading the entire way. I wonder if I can count that as a talent.

As I grew older, there were two very influential people who encouraged my interest. One was John Coffee, a weightlifter friend of my dad’s. Coffee could be a bit eccentric. His car was filled with books, among other things. When it became full, he would simply buy a new one. I read many great novels courtesy of his roving library and a few rather strange science fiction ones.

He is also the one who encouraged me to pursue an English degree. I had selected another major, and when I told him, he said, “I thought you would have chosen something more intellectual like English or Literature.”

It had never occurred to me to major in something I loved. I thought I had to have a degree in which I could actually make money! I changed majors at my first opportunity.

My second influence was Al Braselton, my dad’s first cousin. I further expanded my reading list, thanks to his suggestions. Al also encouraged me to write. I remember bringing him an essay once and saying, “It’s not my best.”

His reply was, “Well, bring me your best. I want to read your best.”

Al was a writer himself and wrote a wonderful poem about my grandfather that I’ll post soon. He was also good friends with James Dickey. The two took a canoeing trip down a North Georgia river, during which the idea for Dickey’s Deliverance was developed. The book is dedicated to Al.

Today, as I write my first book, I appreciate my early influences more than ever. I was very fortunate to have them encouraging me, as well as a mother who would read comic books to me over and over, and a father who continues to share the same love of books.

I’m delighted to see the same trait in my children. And if they can one day make a living out of their love of words, God bless them. If not, they can always start a blog.

No comments: