Saturday, June 14, 2008
Show & Tell With Mel Sunday
This tattered and dog-eared paperback is the first book I ever bought with my own money. I had babysitting money burning a hole in my pocket and when I came across this at a yard sale, I snatched it up. I don't recall how old I was - old enough to be babysitting, young enough that it's been too long to remember exactly.
I've always been an avid reader. By the time I was three I had memorized all the books my mom would read to me and "read" them back to her. By the time I was four, it was no longer from rote recall. By the time I was in the 3rd grade I was reading on a 6th Grade level and my favorite books were Agatha Christie novels - particularly "And Then There Were None". Often I had to provide our local librarian with a note from my mom to check out books from the "Adult Fiction" section. It wasn't because I was trying to check out the lurid steamy stuff (I will admit to a V.C. Andrews or Danielle Steele novel or two) - but because said librarian wasn't quite sure that a nine year old was on the right comprehension level for some of the novels I took home. Eventually she no longer hesitated, asking me "Are you sure this book isn't too old for you honey?" when I would hand the books over and would just open their covers, stamp them with a date two weeks hence and hand them back. I read fast too - devouring thick novels often in just a few hours. Then sitting back and replaying it over in my head with pictures the words conjured up for me for days afterward. If it had words on it - I would read it. The cereal box at the breakfast table. The tiny print on the back of the toothpaste tube. The tags on the mattress. I was the kid staying up late at night under the blankets with a flashlight - reading into the wee hours. I collected Nancy Drew; swooned to the Brownings; shivered at Poe; delighted in Dickinson and the Brontë sisters; solved countless mysteries with Mrs. Marple, Monsieur Poirot and Sherlock Holmes himself. By the time I was in high school it was Stephen King, Piers Anthony and Tom Clancy. Funny how as I matured, my taste in literature became less classical and more contemporary! Though - of all of these books, read and re-read and enjoyed, I never read one as many times as I have read this one battered copy of "Gone With The Wind".
I literally ate the book up - often reading it over more than a couple times a year. Over time from constant reading and re-reading it has morphed into its current state. The back cover and last few pages are actually missing, chunks of paragraphs and sentences torn away from overuse - but I no longer need them, I completely remember how the story goes and how it ends. I use to feel smug when I would watch the theatrical version and know that in the book, Rhett Butler's parting shot was not merely "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." In fact, he doesn't say frankly my dear at all - and his farewell to Scarlett goes on for pages. Page after delicious page of love and disillusionment and finally weariness and resignation. Even after total devastation, our heroine does what she does best - she gathers up her skirts, heads back to Tara and declares to think about it all tomorrow - and you know, you just know she's going to be alright because by now you know she can take care of herself - by hook or by crook and whether or not she gets Rhett back, because that is Scarlett.
Nowadays I am unable to spend the amount of time reading that I once did when younger. It has been years since I cracked open an Agatha Christie and if someone were to ask me if I thought Heathcliff was a tragic figure, I would probably envision an orange cat before the dark and enigmatic character created by Emily Brontë. While I still read as much as I can - much of the more contemporary literature I read now does not satisfy me near as much as my old friends once did. Every now and then I find a gem - but overall, it just isn't the same as it use to be for me. I cannot recall the last time I read "Gone With The Wind" and it was purely by accident that I came across it while rummaging through our storage. As I held the book once more in my hands this week I wondered why and when I had stopped reading it.
Maybe tomorrow I will sit down and begin reading it again.
After all, tomorrow IS another day . . .
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