From a very early age I’ve had my nose in a book. I can’t say for sure what caused my fascination with reading. My brother, for instance, who is only two years older and had pretty much the same upbringing as I did, was not a great reader when we were young. So I can’t say that because my parents read to us very occasionally that this planted the seed for a lifelong interest in books. Maybe it was just a genetic disposition. I’m not sure.
I remember a moment when I was six years old and my father was driving me somewhere. I looked out the window and realized I could read the words on a billboard. I told Dad about my discovery and he seemed very pleased. There was some positive reinforcement! The idea that language could communicate something otherwise hidden like a secret code stayed with me for years, and I suppose it’s a part of my current feeling about reading as well. Reading (and writing of course) is about discovery. Going somewhere you’ve never been before, exploring new terrain, be it psychological or physical or perhaps discovering information, facts about the world which help us see more clearly and experience the world more deeply. All of those more adult emotions I think were buried inside that initial surprise and delight that I could decode a billboard.
My father loved words. He read books about the history of words and about other linguistic matters. Those weren’t academic books. They were books about puns, about jokes with wordplay, about etymologies, about rare or curious words. Whenever I heard a word for the first time and asked my father what it meant, he told me to go look it up. We had a large unabridged dictionary that was always left open on its stand that sat in the corner of the living room. I remember going to that dictionary many many times to figure out what this or that word meant. And in the process I bumped into other words on the same page that I found fascinating.
I read the books that were required in school and I rambled around the library and found books on subjects I was interested in. A novel about hotrods, for instance. (I was an avid model car builder and loved cars from an early age, especially dragsters and sports cars). I read a biography of Bob Cousy that I dearly loved. (I played basketball for my Kentucky high school team, and in the summer I spent many hours playing sandlot basketball in barns and backyard courts around town.) Some of those early novels I read and the biographies are still vivid in my memory. Oh, those Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes! And those books on subjects I already had an interest in reinforced the habit of reading.
More on reading later. In the interest of keeping these blog posts short, and so I can actually get a little work done on the new novel today, I’ll end here. But I promise I’ll continue this thread again soon.