Monday, July 7, 2008


Larry McMurtry has a new memoir out. I liked the title and picked it up to read the blurbs. Apparently he lived a "Texas childhood in an isolated, 'totally bookless' ranch house." He has since gone on to collect over 28,000 books and become quite a connoisseur of books and their values. I picked it up at the bookstore to look at and add to a "to read" list in my head and then started thinking of my own personal adventure with books and reading.

I remember, in a displaced memory type of way, of learning to read before I started school. I had a "babysitter," a retired school teacher who always wore black and smelled of some faint, dusty flower. I don't remember any of the details, she taught me to "color," also. (Always outline in black, stay within the lines and short strokes of waxy crayon that never turned out as nice as I wanted it to. Hypercritical, even in those days.)

Then I remember school. I believe it was first grade as kindergarten was not necessarily available in the time and place that I existed. And the book. The book, that to this day, I cannot bring myself to think about or read or recommend. The one with the repetitive line..."I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." Screw that little train. I knew the book by heart as I had to listen to it daily during "nap time." And, even at the age of seven, I knew it possessed a simplistic message that would mean nothing to me in the bizarre life that I was living.

There were also no books in my home. There was alcohol, arguing, bugs, anger, and in addition to no books, no hugging, snuggling or any sort of "nice touch." I grew in my head, my world was in my head, my life was in my own world. There were no books to escape into.

Somewhere around the third grade books came into "existence." It could have been because of Miss McClellan, my page-boyed, blonde third grade teacher. (Yes, it was my first first crush!) She loaned me books to take home. I started to read. Constantly. Hiding in closets. Sneaking books out of the house under my skirt with my legs clamped tightly together. Sneaking into other people's garages and discovering stashes of Popular Science and True Crime magazines. Through all of the books that were available for "young readers" and then moving on to Reader's Digest condensed novels in the homes of the children I babysat for.

It went on and on, until, finally someone gave me my very own book. I was in the 7th or 8th grade. It was an encyclopedia of science of sorts. it had a hard back and front and the pages were held together with metal rivets since it was so thick. I loved this book. I read it front to back, back to front, and hid it constantly so that it would never be found in the 'wrong' place and confiscated.

I was hooked. And to this day I have books with me always. I work in a bookstore and have on and off, full and part time for the past 35 years. I have stacks of books to read, stacks of books read and stacks of books to pass on to others. (Yes, I have finally developed the ability to let some books go. This does not count the boxes of books yet to be unpacked from my life altering marriage a year and a half ago. (As he helped me unpack my books at my previous home, before I had truly fallen in love with him, it was his comments on the books that I owned that pushed me further towards him.)

And now, as my daughter says, "You'll have to read when you're dead." resounds in my head, I still compulsively touch, rearrange, and continue to puchase books...

Whoever would I have been without them?

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Blogger Maria said...

I have been to Larry's book store(s) the Blue Pig. One of the greatest things about it, was at the time it was actually two stores. Two buildings that were across the street from one another. Each one filled to the brim with books. This was in a one stop sign town. My ex-husband's family actually owned the picture show (drive in) at the time the movie was made. Last time I was there was at least 15 years ago. I remember thinking the smell of the book store was sublime. Thanks for sparking a great memory.
:) Maria

July 11, 2008 at 9:48 AM  

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