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 . . .

For more Show & Tell - click here


Mrs. Spit said...

Ahh, I was 15 - it was the summer before I started highschool. I found mine at a garage sale. Made a huge impression.

My paper for my senior year history seminar in University was called "Scarlett doesn't live here anymore: Southern Belles in the Civil War"

Amazing book. Thanks for sharing.

Delenn said...

A wonderful ode to reading. Being an avid reader myself, it was great to read your post.

loribeth said...

OK, we really were separated at birth, right down to the Agatha Christies & people asking me if the books I was reading weren't a little too "old" for me. I read GWTW when I was 11 & re-read it multiple times, although not in recent years. I've seen the movie many times too, although I much prefer to see it on the big screen than on TV. Even though it was made nearly 70 years ago, I still think it's a fabulous movie. I refuse to read or see any of the sequels -- bah!!

My original paperback may still be at my parents' house. It eventually fell apart in sections & I had to hold it together with a rubber band. I have gone through many paperback editions -- I would lend a copy to someone & never get it back. I finally got a hardcover replica of the original first edition, which I refuse to lend to anyone. ; )

chicklet said...

I've actually never read this, just seen the movie. I'm assuming the book is better and the movie ruined me forever?

DC said...

Thanks for sharing your love for reading. I haven't read "Gone With the Wind," but will add it to my list now.

Alyson & Ford said...

I love being able to take the time to reread a favorite book.... I will curl up with a Jane Austen book when I need a familiar, soothing, easy read. As you wrote, it doesn't happen very often any more.

Alyson LID 01/27/06

Queenie. . . said...

Your early reading habits sound exactly like mine--right down to the librarian!

I remember being in 7th grade, and coming home with The Color Purple. It was the only time my mother ever asked me not to read something. Since she said she would "prefer it" if I didn't read it, but left the choice up to me, I of course read it. And once I did, I knew exactly why she was uncomfortable with it. But I was grateful that she thought I was mature enough to make the decision for myself. It's something I've never forgotten.

Robyn said...

Here's another one with a long, deep and avid reading history which included a note to the librarian from my mum.

And to be transported to the Deep South and the culture of the Southern Belle when I was a physically small, terminally shy kid in suburban (and at that time, physically isolated) Australia was one of the highlights of my reading life.

Great post, thanks for triggering my memorie. Here from Show and Tell and NCLM.

Heather J. said...

Ok, reading your post was like reading parts of my life story! I read every sign, the back of every box, every label, EVERYTHING with words that was ever within my line of sight. At age 7 I read The Hobbit. And now I have a blog all about books! :)

Still Standing Strong in A Bloom of Hope. said...

Love love love Gone with the love

Sheri said...

I remember my mom arguing with the school librarian that if I wanted to read the dictionary, I was to be allowed to!

GWTW is also my all time favorite book. I've got almost the first chapter memorized. Truly a classic. I was FURIOUS with the mini-series they did of Scarlett. That much money, and they were so far off?? Books are magical.

SAHW said...

Great show and tell post! I guess we're kindred spirits...I was always the kid with a book in hand at all times too. My parents would have to take away the cereal boxes and other packaging so I wouldn't read them while eating.

And while I don't have kids yet like you do, I also find that my reading isn't the same anymore. I'm too busy to sit back and relax with a novel, and I really miss that.

Lori said...

We sound like reading twins:

Agatha Christie (Miss Marple over Hercule Poirot) -- check
Danielle Steele (but not in a really long time) -- check
VC Andrews -- check
Piers Anthony (Incarnations of Immortality!) -- check

Cool show & tell.

Portraits In Sepia said...

Hi there! I too am an avid reader and began at an early age. My first novel was The Boxcar Children. My mother gave me 6 Judy Blume books for Christmas one year and she wrapped them as one present. We were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve and I opened that one knowing what it was. I read all 6 books that night. I would terrify myself with VC Andrews' books and I read Mommy Dearest at an age when I probably shouldn't have. I just had to read anything I could get my hands on. I love knowing fellow readers who are just as passionate. Cheers to you!