In a rare obeisance to Valentine's Day, I give you this little ditty about my longest affair.
And what, you ask, has captured my heart so? *She laughs as she thinks that you know her oh so little* One word: books.
Yes, those dainty little delightful delicacies of paper and ink. Books. I love them. The way they feel in your hands, the way they smell, the way they stand by quietly and let you laugh and cry at the events they contain. A book is always there for you, waiting, ready to to take you on an adventure. They are just truly loveable.
The first book I remember falling for was The Pokey Little Puppy. It's a Little Golden Book and it was one of the first that I read. I loved that story about the little puppy who went on great adventures and was sad when he went without dessert (but I now realize that he was disobedient and deserved to face the consequences for his actions). I read that book over and over and over. I think it is the reason I had a fascination with getting a dog that only recently evaporated.
Since then it's been one book after another. I spent more time in the elementary school library then I did in the classroom. I read every Nancy Drew mystery they had (and found a few they didn't at garage sales), I read my copy of Little Women ragged. I devoured every book I could get my hands on (including some of the romances my mother had that I probably should not have read, but hey, I was young and none of it made sense at the time).
I discovered the joy of buying and owning books. There was (and still is) something about buying a book that takes my breath away. It's a treasure chest and you don't know what you'll find when you break open the cover, but you know it's going to be something amazing. I remember the days in school when the Scholastic book club flyer came out. I'd pour over it on the way home and tell my mom which ones I wanted. I didn't always get them all, but I usually could swing a few (and they were cheap, wish I could go back and buy more!).
As I mentioned, I read a few books ragged. Little Women, James and the Giant Peach, just to name two. I re-read books. No one every told me I couldn't. I grew up thinking everyone who was anyone (i.e. anyone who is anyone was a reader) re-read books. Why read it in the first place if you weren't going to keep reading it over and over? What a waste of paper to only read it once. It never crossed my mind that people only read books once. Sure, there are a few I've never gone back to, but so many more that I do revisit. They are old friends. I never knew why I went back, per se, but I did.
Then not so long ago I learned that there are people out there who read, they read a lot, but they don't ever re-read a book. Honestly, when I heard this, I about had a full out stroke. The horror! To leave a book after one reading it like leaving the table after the first course of a meal. You may think you are satisfied but you have no idea what you are missing in the following courses.
When I tried to reason with the person who revealed this disturbing fact to me, she thought I was the crazy one to re-read a book. Her thought was, "I've read it, it won't change, why waste time reading it again." I nearly died on the spot. So here is what I told her.
While the words on the page may not change (indeed, they should not), you are not the same person from today to tomorrow from yesterday and therefore you can never read the book the exact same way you did before. And books are more than a stroll through the park on a sunny afternoon. To get their power, to learn their lessons, you have to spend time with them in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, in the long winter days and chilly spring afternoons. There is no way to catch every offering a book has on one read. And you'll never learn as much about yourself if you limit the experience.
I've ready most of Jane Austen's books five or six times (at least). Every time, I learn something new about Austen, about her characters and about me. Each time I visit with those dear friends of mine, I have changed, I may understand a character more or less, or see eye to eye with the author in a way I couldn't before, because I had not yet grown tall enough as a human being. The same thing happens with all my favorite books. I believe for a book to be really great, it has to pull you back, make you want to read it again, keep looking and digging to find each precious moment, word, look and secret.
The other gal conceded that I had a good point. I challenged her to recall a book she really enjoyed and try reading it again. We'll see if she takes me up on it.
So, that's my great affair, the deep love I hold. If you want to make my head swim and knock me off my feet, forget the jewels, forget candy and even the flowers. Take me to a bookstore and tell me to pick one. Let me wander the isles, soaking in the wonderfulness. Surprize me with a new selection from an old friend or a new voice. I'll love you forever.