Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Passion for Reading by Victoria Chatham

With Christmas just days away, I'm hoping that among my gifts, if I'm lucky enough to receive any, will be a book. A real book. 

Yes, I have a Kindle and a tablet and buy ebooks from Amazon, but I love the lure of real books, the flow of words, the feel and smell of old paper. As Helene Hanff says in 84 Charing Cross Road: ‘I’m almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages. Being used to the dead-white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to touch’. I adore the sensory perception instilled by such writers as Anita Diamant (The Red Tent) who describes Rachel as ‘smelling like water’ and in Marek Halter’s Sarah, the first book in his Canaan Trilogy, ‘Abram smiled and the wings of his beautiful lips seemed to fly away’. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini describes how ‘suddenly, just like that, hope became knowledge’.

Along with a passion for words comes a passion for dictionaries and Thesauri, books on writing and grammar. And, for those of you who may suspect otherwise, I do have a sense of humor! My favorite grammar book is a saucy little number by Laurie Rozakis, The Comma Sutra, whose first chapter on the vagaries of the English language is entitled ‘How We Got Into This Mess’.

There are books, books and more books and never enough time to read them all. But read I must. The authors I read and reread spill from my bookshelves onto piles on the floor beside the shelves, are stacked on and under my coffee tables and nightstand, beside me on my bed and tucked behind the cushion in my chair.

As children, my cousins and I all had the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic instilled in us before we marched up the steps of the school we all attended. Ahead of our time, we were separated in class because, bored mindless with the inanity of A is for Apple, we became recognized troublemakers. But books kept us quiet, and we were given books in plenty to read quietly to ourselves.

The first book I remember being given as a birthday present was Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit. Then along came Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. The children’s classics: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass followed when I was five, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty when I was six and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island when I was seven. Am I blessed with a brilliant memory? Sometimes. But now, more years later than I care to admit, I still have these books with loving inscriptions from my parents.

When I turned eight years old there was a big jump in my reading material with titles that would probably be quite alien to eight year olds today. R.D Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, W.H Ainsworth’s Windsor Castle and Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! As a teenager my school reading included D.H. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Frank T. Bullen’s The Cruise of the Cachalot (about sperm whales) and, of course, William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Following in my father’s footsteps I read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and The Jungle Book, also Stalky & Co and Soldiers Three and a personal favorite Thy Servant, A Dog.

Somewhere in my thirteenth year I discovered romance, particularly Regency historical romance and became a lifelong fan of Georgette Heyer. I still have my first edition copy of Frederica, which I read at least once a year and still find as fresh and as funny as the first time I read it. And there have been many, many first reads – too many to recount here. Books that I have loved and lost have come back to me via searches on www.alibris.com and www.abebooks.com. I’ll sometimes take a day and browse used bookstores – although this is dangerous territory for me as I’ll more likely not find what I am looking for but come home with new and exciting treasures.

There are books, books and more books and never enough time to read them all. But read I must. The authors I read and reread spill from my bookshelves onto piles on the floor beside the shelves, are stacked on and under my coffee tables and nightstand, beside me on my bed and tucked behind the cushion in my chair. My tastes these days are many and varied but this world, for all the technology available to us today, would be a much poorer place without the rich heritage we have of books, of the joy of language and the sheer pleasure to be found in the reading before we ever begin the writing.

To find out if Victoria receives a book for Christmas check out these links:

www.bookswelove.com/chatham.php
www.victoriachatham.webs.com
www.amazon.com/author/victoriachatham
www.facebook.com/AuthorVictoriaChatham
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