Reading has been the single most sustaining passion of my life, and as with many it began early, complete with the proverbial flashlight under the covers. I remember that sometime around the age of five my mother called to me from her room and asked me to come try on some article of clothing she had bought for me, and I answered that I was too busy. That made her laugh. She asked what I was busy doing, and I told her I was busy reading. I can’t recall what she said in response. I only know that from that time to this, I have never not been in the process of reading something.
I was never told what I could or could not read. There was nothing taboo or hidden in the home in which I grew up. There was a study filled with books, some of them beautifully bound. I don’t recall my parents ever asking me what I was reading. Occasionally my mother would suggest something, but that was rare. I think they took a rather laissez-faire attitude to my reading, assuming that there was a house full of books and that I would avail myself of them. My mother, I know, felt that if I could understand something I was old enough to read it and that if I didn’t understand it, it probably wouldn’t hurt. There may have been a flaw in that logic, but it worked for me.
Supplementing the cornucopia of books in our home was the weekly trip to the library. From the time I can remember, my mother dutifully took me to one of the two libraries in town. It was rather marvelous that two libraries were at the disposal of the citizens of a then rather small town in Fairfield Country, Connecticut, as in my childhood, there was only a population of somewhere about 28,000 souls and the libraries had stood for quite some time. Somewhere among the town’s earlier persons of influence must have been a dedicated reader.
As I was often left to my own devices in a rather large house – my mother’s approach to parenting in general as laissez-faire as her outlook on my reading – I began to shape the habits and attitudes that would last until this moment. I never, ever went to sleep without reading first. There were always books on my night table. There are six there now. I suppose this must have become somewhat ritualistic, as it is now impossible for me to fall into the arms of Morpheus without a book to guide my way.
The other habit I developed was reading all night. When particularly engrossed in a book, I was/am wholly incapable of leaving it because of something so mundane as the strictures of time, and my eyes at half-mast. This often resulted in my being utterly zombified in school the next morning. My occasional failure to focus or pay attention was not caused by organic Attention Deficit, but rather by Sleep Deficit brought on by deep night delicious enjoyment and immersion in some wonderful volume.
Others before me have written beautifully of their delight in and passion for books, for reading, and that extraordinary thing, that magic, that astonishing mystery that occurs when words on a page (or a Kindle if you must) take us far from home, around the globe, through time and space, to worlds we never dreamed of. Or, so deep inside a character’s psyche we meet facets of our own nature we’d never before plumbed. This marvelously inexplicable thing that happens when letters are strung together to form words enchanted me from the first moment I could decode them, and is one of the things I find divine and hold sacred. So I humbly thank The Muses for the trillions of words they have inspired. What a gift to us all.