I have been a prodigious reader since I can remember. My first stab at writing fiction came at the expense of a pen named Percy woven into fabled exploits. I found chunky books satisfying and slender ones easy to slip into and out of with the deft skill of a model in between turns on the runway.
Where to read became as important as what. While my bed offered multiple positions in which to slink my way into a book, there are only so many times you can flip from one side to the other. I never have been much of an on-my-back-reader as this requires a spread eagle in books that often times accompanies the crack of a spine and that is something Beck and I agree is a bit of anathema.
Recently, I have taken to riding a stationary bike at the gym as it allows me an opportunity for continuity of words and lines that sometimes the treadmill does not afford. Friends look at me strangely when I tell them one of my favorite reasons for going to the gym is to read.
Ah, incorrigible, I know.
So I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I am notorious for carving out reading nooks and caverns in unexpected places. Mama likes to remind me of the one she knows best.
When I was in junior high and high school, I came into an inheritance of sorts. I was bequeathed a closet in the guest bedroom. My childhood imagination ran wild with ideas of knocking down the wall in between that closet and the one in my room considering a hidden pathway possibility as one exciting prospect.
It’s a good thing that it remained a fancy rather than an actual attempt as in my imagination this pathway could lead well beyond one room to another but might catapult into mysteries still unknown. This allure only magnified once I read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” My secret pathway would not have involved fauns or white witches or even snow. And while Turkish Delight would not have been my kryptonite, it could have easily been supplanted for something else on the sweet side.
Instead, I fashioned this small closet into a reading space. I apportioned it with my navy blue sleeping bag on the ground, for cushioning, of course, and pillows stacked on the side wall. I packed the closet shelves lining the other side with books, creating vignettes by theme and type. On the top shelf, I positioned a small lamp, pulling the cord from the plug and weaving it strategically into the crevice between door and jamb.
I would drag my shaggy dog inside with me and somehow we never were in want of fresh air. That or he was one loyal pooch. This reading nook was all mine. I would spend hours in my nook and Mama would poke her head in and bring me a glass of water or let the dog out when his fortitude for tight spaces came to its inevitable end.
What is it about tight spaces and good lighting that makes reading even more entertaining? Perhaps it’s the enclosure that helps jettison the reader deeper and faster into a promising tale that delivers.
Books and their weight- their portioning in the hand and the way your palm sometimes aches if you’re in the same position too long- this is something that I find myself holding onto like a badge of honor in a world of electronic readers.
Don’t get me wrong, “A Dance with Dragons” certainly made me a fan of kindle-reading on the bus. There is a role for e-readers that I wouldn’t have expected.
If you were to pass your hand over my collection of poetry and fiction though, there is a whole life jotted out in the margins of those sometimes deeply annotated books. The smell of the paper, the bleed of the ink into the printed substrait- while slick on the screen, they don’t carry the same resonance as in the physical, do they?
I miss my reading closet.
It’s so much smaller now than the grandeur it holds in my memory. And while it is now piled with winter clothing and storage boxes, I cling to the art of reading and the role that place plays in making a good story great.
And if you take that same notion that hours wiled away for one purpose can be hours well spent, I think you will find our weekly pot of Turtle Beans as much of a siren call as the reading nooks and crannies of yore.