I Used to Read

When I was young lad (kindergarten through third grade) I was classified as a “strong reader” by my teachers and was clumped with the advanced readers in my class.  It was in the middle of my third grade year that our family moved from Minneapolis to Bloomington and we ended up switching schools.  I am not sure what happened (well, other than moving and switching schools) but the categorization of being a “strong reader” disappeared afterwards.  It’s a theory, but I suspect it may be because this is about the age that reading gets separated from “leisure” to “assigned”.  I often struggle with “assigned” reading.  In a nutshell - If it does not catch my interest, there is little chance I will finish what I have started.

Looking back now, I can see that even as a young child I have always been intrigued with the horror genre.  One of my earliest memories of finding a book I wanted to read was at the point where I was still having books read to me and/or I was just starting to read Dick and Jane books on my own.  I remember seeing a book in the “teenage” section of the public library with an illustration of a human skull surfacing through the cracked mud of a dry river bed.  Every time I went to the library, I tracked that book down and stared at the cover (sometimes multiple times per visit).  I do not remember the title or author of that book and (as an adult) I have tried to search that book out to no avail.  I’d LOVE to find that book and read it – just to satisfy the “five year old” in me!

One of my favorite early reader books (and I still have a copy of it) is The Ghost of Dibble Hollow.  Doing a quick Google search on this title shows me that I was not alone.  There are LOTS of references to that book!  Recently (within the last ten years) I have even re-read that book.    

There was another book I read that I would LOVE to track down.  I do not recall the title or the author.  My parents bought it for me at a department store (J.C. Penny’s or Sears) It was a discount hard cover book with a terrible quality binding, and I believe it had a purple cover.  All I recall is that the book was about a haunted “Ghost Town”…      

In 1979 (at the ripe ol’ age of 10) Steven King’s Salem’s Lot was made into a TV Mini-series.  While I am certain that my parents would have NEVER allowed us to watch it, we had a babysitter both nights it aired, and we watched it.  It scared the bee-jee-bees out of me.  I had to cover my eyes, and peek through cracks in my fingers, and had nightmares for weeks afterwards, but I could not resist.  This was foreshadowing a sign of things to come.

In my early teens our family took a summer vacation road trip.  I grabbed a book to take along with me from the library.  There was nothing more than then name that initially intrigued me.  The book was titled The Dead Zone.  It was the first time I remember being COMPLETELY captivated by a book.  Intrigued by the author’s style, I sought out more.  That’s when I noticed he was also responsible for Salem’s Lot.  I latched on to anything Steven King wrote!  I could not get enough of his work.  

In high school, under the tutelage of my Literature teachers Ms. Hanley and Mrs. Hanson, I was “assigned” a number of literary pieces to read.  (Assigned being the key phrase here.)  Much to their chagrin (and reflective in my Lit grades), I am living proof that “assigned” does not always result in actually having read these works. 

A few highlights – I did complete (most of) and found at least a moderate interest in Julius Caesar, and The Lord of the Flies.  I actually finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) Flowers for Algernon and Frankenstein.  (Flowers for Algernon? Really?  Why?  It is such a complete departure from what I usually enjoy.  I have NO idea what it was about that novel that caught my interest, but it did.  Mrs. Hanson was THRILLED!)       

A few lowlights – I never did read a word of The Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird, Death of a Salesman, Twelve Angry Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Ethan Frome, The Glass Menagerie, and a number of other titles that seemed so utterly forgettable that I (embarrassingly) cannot even recall their titles.

As you can plainly see, the list of lowlights is much longer than the list of highlights (and remember, some of the highlights were only partially read).  But worry not dear readers, while I did not partake in the works listed above, I did manage to read The Dead Zone, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Cemetery, Cujo, Christine, Firestarter, and a number of other Steven King horror classics!

This highlight / lowlight pattern continued through high school and into my college years.

I was once chastised by a college professor for reading Steven King’s It in her class.  I had the book nestled in the class text book, but I was so engrossed in the book that I did not notice her wandering around the class room (where she noticed me reading it).  It was not until she returned to the front of the classroom and proclaimed (for all to hear) “Mr. Father-of-five, I know I am not as engrossing as Mr. King, but I would appreciate it if you put his work away until after my class”.  

I worked my way through King’s collection of works, and then latched on to a hodgepodge of various other authors and titles.  During and after college, my attention was drawn away from reading and redirected towards my friends, work, and later marriage, fatherhood, homeownership, and so many other responsibilities I cannot begin to count. (Remember folks, I only have twenty fingers and toes in which to count upon.)  This downward spiral in reading continued until my transformation to the busy Father of Five that you see before you was complete.  I don’t like it, but My life has pretty much consumed any time / mental capacity / and energy I once had for reading.  I think (at this point) I am lucky if I average (and I am being generous with myself here) one book / novel a year.     

I hope that is about to change!!  (Stay tuned…)

If you are / were voyeuristic enough to have actually found this post interesting – be sure to check out The Horror in My Life – an older post (from 2007) dedicated to my love of the horror literary genre.

7 comments:

  1. I actually did read Catcher in the Rye. Complete waste of time.

    Anyway, I'm like you. I gobbled up books as a kid. During the summer I'd read 20 or 30.

    Now? Too little time and energy. And I'm only a Father of Two! I find it far too enticing to watch a short TV show at bedtime rather than read for 20 minutes. It's all my energy levels can handle at that time of night.

    I keep meaning to have a "Reading Day" where all the kids and I do is read. No computer, no TV, no games. Just books. Hmmm... Maybe this week.

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  2. I'm with you and Idaho Dad. I used to love to read as a kid, when the scholatic book fair came, I was begging my parents to let me buy 10-20 books at a time and would read each one of them. Now, reading is more of a chore than anything and after a long day, zoning out with a mindless TV show is such an easy alternative to actually reading. It sucks, hopefully I'll rekindle the flame because of this post.

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  3. Ahhh... DFB - you may have been much closer to the answer than you realized when you said you hope this post will reKINDLE your reading flame!!

    Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!

    Stay tuned!

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  4. David,
    Why is Wikipedia (and 3,000 other web sites) off for 24 hrs in protest of SOPA, and your blog is still up? What gives? Why do you hate America?
    Co-Worker

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  5. I remember when we watched that Salem's Lot movie... and I was scared for YEARS!!! I STILL won't watch that movie, and hate anything vampire!!! I remember sleeping with the sheets wrapped up around my neck to protect me from vampire bites!!!

    How wonderful that you rediscovered your joy of reading!!! I can't wait (or can I???!!!???) to find out about some of the things you are reading!

    Sis

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  6. I have enjoyed this post to the fullest. There is no place in my for anything horror-ish. I switch off very fast as soon as I see appearances of it in a distance. I however have found "hounded" on discovery I.d quite tolerable.

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  7. NEVER read anything by Steven King. NEVER watched a horror movie... unless you count "Psycho". I scare easily!

    But, I do love to read, and consider myself somewhat avid through most of my adult years, although sometimes sporadic.

    The key... always keep a book available, and keep the TV off as much as possible.

    I try to continually stretch my interests, by mixing in some books, ocassionally, that aren't at the top of my interst level, but that I feel makes me a better person in some way. For example, the last Presidential election, I read a book (or at least part of a book) written by both candidates. Not my favorite reading, and it didn't sway my vote, but I felt like I "knew" the candidates better. Check out my "Reading List" tab on the blog... pretty ecclectic, I think.

    May I suggest such a tab on your blog? I find it interesting to chronicle my reads over the past several years... I think you would, too, if you're reKINDLEing your practice of reading!

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