I'm a reader. I read things. Papers, magazines, books- hell, I know the active ingredient in most toiletries found within typical range of the bathroom sink (least fun Kings category ever, btw). I read at lunch, I read on the subway, I read in bars, I read before bed. I fall asleep reading every night and wake up covered in words and pictures of celebrities like I'm made of paper-mache. When I meet other readers, we immediately launch into a furious, Amazon-like flurry of recommendations and comparisons. Some people think it's pretentious to call yourself a reader, but it's hard for an activity to be pretentious when hobos can do it just as well.
I wish I could read my blanket.
On the rare occasions that the mother would take me out to dinner in one of my hometown's many variations on the "Affable Blue Collar Local Deep Fries Things and Can Install Your Snow Tires, Too" eating establishments, it was an unspoken rule that we both would bring books, so that we might order, then immediately commence our respective reading, lest there be any actual exchange of emotion or conversation. Given that my parents and I have spent at least 80% of our time together reading in silence, I'm amazed at the number of horrifying discussions we've managed to cram into the remaining 20% (7%-Revelations of life truths at a premature age, 3%- Passing along of false information, 2%- Graphic discussions of family health issues, 3%- Ordering at drivethrough windows, 5%-Ongoing lifelong dialogue about why The Naked Gun is/is not funny), and grateful to the majesty of reading for sparing me what I can only assume would have been an additional 3-4 years of my parents repeatedly demanding I mow the lawn for lack of anything else to say. When your child's favorite thing to do is read, there's not a lot of threats you can use against them to force them to do your bidding; grounding/revoking TV and friend privileges just provides more reading time, and society had fortunately started to frown upon beatings by the late 80s. In retrospect, I didn't take advantage of this nearly as much as I should have.
Seemed as though a picture of a book should appear somewhere.
Recently, I've taken to listening to audiobooks during my lengthy walks. My family are all huge book-on-tape fans; at Thanksgiving you can seek refuge from the barrage of questions regarding the state of your uterus in what you believed to be an empty room, then shit yourself when you find 2-3 people sitting in the dark staring off into space like zombies, headphones in ears. Every single car trip I took with my parents between the ages of 4-17 was accompanied not by public radio shows or family singalongs, but books-on-tape, cruelly interspersed with my father's only other album, Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits, giving me the coveted teenage skills of knowing all the words to both"Solitary Man" and the first chapter of Tom Clancy's "Patriot Games". I'm digging my latest download from audible.com
, but it's very easy to get lost in the story as you walk along, and when I suddenly start grinning at a particularly delightful turn-of-phrase, I imagine it's unnerving to others walking in the opposite direction. I used to work out to comedy albums, and there is no stranger look one can receive than when he/she suddenly bursts out laughing on the elliptical because an unseen George Carlin has said "fuck" creatively.
Now I read that critics are denouncing
the Book-It program, the grade school reward system wherein if you read five books a month, you get a free Personal Pan pizza from Pizza Hut. I took part in this program back when a Personal Pan really was a meal, and not a palm-sized apertif meant to keep your mouth busy chewing on something while you wait for them to squeeze your gordita into existence at the attached Taco Bell Express (perhaps that's just me), and never has a Pavlovian loop been more solidly formed. If I read a book, I got pizza. Now people claim that the program promotes the consumption of junk food, and that some children read easier books to get points, and are more motivated by the prize than the reading itself, to which I say "No shit."
Ironically, a sentence fragment.
Free pizza was (and is) the most motivating factor in a redblooded human's life. Never mind the fact that all of my food was free back then, thanks to the love of my parents/federal law, and that pizza was probably the only food I ever ate with the main ingredient not ending in "xenyol-9". If I read a book, I got pizza. Sure, it's a little sad that at the age of seven, I had yet to fully appreciate the beauty of the written word and the insitution of literature as reward in itself, but out of all of the things you could have gotten me to do for free pizza- treason or renouncement of God among them- reading seems pretty harmless. I had classmates that to this day would not have ever read five books in their life had there not been pepperoni at the end of the reading rainbow. We were in the second grade, and at that age, kids do shit for the payoff. It's not dirty, it's a lifetime theme--I don't sit at a desk all day, pretending to work out of a deep-rooted devotion to mankind, and though I don't remember why I agreed to toilet training, I can pretty much guarantee it wasn't out of an adherence to societal norms--and there's no reason to pretend otherwise.