Defragmenting my brain.

October 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Posted in day to day | 2 Comments
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I used to love reading. My mother and father read aloud to my sister and I – I remember distinctly lying on the floor in my parents’ bedroom listening in horror as my father read the beginning chapters of Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire, my imagination following his every word, conjuring the image of an evil pet snake slithering on the floor next to the Dark Lord.

In the sixth grade when my parents separated I began my quest to check out the most books of any student from the school library (I was under the impression that should I accomplish this feat I might be rewarded with a certificate). I spent lunch hours on the grass in front of my classroom instead of joining the customary handball games on the playground. My teacher – probably tipped off by my mother about my middle class adolescent turmoil – called me inside. If you want to talk…

7th grade. A new school. Fresh divorce. New library.

I wrapped myself in Tamora Pierce. I wanted to live in Tortall. I wanted Kel, George, and Alana to be my friends. But they stayed in my head, as I knew they had to.

8th grade. During one of my frequent wanderings through Barnes and Noble, I spot nearly an entire bookcase ruled by one author. Nora Roberts. I’m drawn to her awesome proliferation. I prick my finger on that first book, inundate the local libraries with holds on every Roberts book they had or could have shipped to them.

9th grade. I perched on the concrete wall outside the school, engrossed in Stephen King’s IT, as my classmates and I waited for the bus to take us to retreat.

And then I went to college and characters were shelved for Headings, clinical analysis, required fact finding.

My love for scripted television was one I could nourish between classes or research papers. A hallmate got me a few books for my birthday, which I lumbered through dutifully – even with a little remembered pleasure for the pasttime.

But it wasn’t until I left college – 2 years early, no degree – and moored myself with no bearings in a summer where I was expected to map my Way Back to a future – that I started reading again. Really reading.

In a new town. No friends. No school. No job. No schedule. I spent my time in the local libraries under the guise of being productive. In the past I preferred Barnes and Noble’s current stock to a library’s outdated, limited shelves. I also had Birthday and Christmas gift cards to feed my desire to own books.

With no disposable income and no storage for clothing let alone books, I found my reacquaintance with libraries to be less jarring than I’d expected. I put popular books on hold (current position 40 of 175 for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest; 70 of 190 for The Hunger Games) and judged books by their covers – picking those off the shelves who were most successful at peacocking.

I also found my relationship with reading to have changed.

I used to escape into books. Now I use them to unknot my brain. Defragment. I sit in my car, recline my seat, and power through Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen in one sitting. I’m draining my car battery – door open to keep the lights on  – so I can finish the last chapter as the sunlight is whisked away with my afternoon.

But I feel good. Just what the chiropractor ordered. Brain massage.

And when I close the cover on the last words, I feel righted.

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Note: recent books finished

Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Cafe by Frannie Flagg (f)
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (f)
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (nf)
Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald b. Kraybill (nf)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (f)
I’m a Believer by Jessica Adams (f)
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy (f)
The Profiler by Pat Brown (nf)

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