People, reading is FUNdamental!

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Can you believe that there are actually people out there who don’t read? I don’t mean someone like Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, whose candid admission that she’s never read a book in her life (which apparently includes her own “autobiography”) sparked a minor scandal about a year ago. Rather, I’m referring to ordinary folk like you and me and the guy over there on the park bench staring off into space.

I see it a lot at the library, where at least half a dozen times a day, someone will come up to the Circulation Desk to apply for a new card, saying something to the effect of, “I haven’t used mine in, like, years.” Really? Years? As in 365 days times x? Like, wow. What do people do when they’re sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office? On a plane during a transcontinental (or, God forbid, a transoceanic) flight? Do these people just go straight to bed without ever cracking open a book? Do they attempt to strike up a conversation with their fellow passenger on the plane/train/bus?

I’m always intrigued by people who sit through an entire flight (whether it’s a thirty-minute flight or a sixteen-hour long haul) and not read at all. I mean, they may flip through the in-flight magazine and glance at a few of the photos, but after a few minutes they’ll tuck it back into the seat pocket, settle back, and just, well, stare into space. For hours.

That would drive me in-freakin’-sane.

I carry at least one book with me everywhere, and sometimes a magazine or two as well. B. teases me about my obsessive need to read (I have to read! I have to catch up with the remembrance of the past!Oskar Werner as Montag, Fahrenheit 451) and sometimes wonders aloud if I would, in the event of a fire, attempt to save my books first instead of him. I read magazines at the grocery checkout line, skim a few pages during workbreaks, and am incapable of falling asleep without reading for at least fifteen minutes before bed. If it’s a really good book, I’m up till dawn. And of course, my first choice of employment when forced to seek it was at the local library. Second choice was at Borders, whether as a bookseller or barista. These books are my family. — Ibid.

Anyway.

Went to an energy expo at the local convention center today for an article I’m writing. In my former life as a developer in the renewable energy biz, I attended several of these business-to-business extravaganzas and always loved the energy (no pun intended) and glitz in those massive exhibit halls. Today’s was quite a bit more subdued than the national conferences, largely because it was limited to the local community and the fact that the event itself was only in its 2nd year.

It’s difficult to write about a conference, not to mention photograph it, because of the sheer size of the event, the number of people who attend, and the limited space in which to move around once it gets into full swing. I did get to befriend Alex, a native from Siberia who works as a sales manager by day and indulges his passion for photography the rest of the time. Always great to meet a fellow creative type. And I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the days when I used to barnstorm dusty west Texas in search of suitable land for wind development. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now for that busy, no-time-for-writing-ever existence, but the experience was nonetheless unforgettable, and I just know that the characters I met while on the road will make one hell of a novel someday.

Speaking of… Great article in the March issue of Poets & Writers on the struggle to write while holding down a day job. Unfortunately, it’s not posted on the Web site, but if you can hightail it down to your local Borders or Barnes & Noble, it’s well worth the trip.

MRA

6 thoughts on “People, reading is FUNdamental!

  1. Yes, it blows my mind, too, to think that there are actually people who <>don’t read<>. I laughed out loud to see that you can’t sleep unless you read at least fifteen minutes in bed — I’m the same way!But you know what blows my mind even more? People who want to be fiction writers who claim they don’t read either novels or short stories! I mean, what fresh hell is this (to paraphrase Dorothy Parker)? I simply can’t wrap my mind around that. I’ve run into a few of those folks on writers’ boards, and they actually seem proud of the fact that they seldom read, and they go on to claim that they “don’t have the time” to read (but they somehow have the time to write?).Mondo Bizzarro *shaking head*.

  2. Oh, I <>know<>!!! I read an article about that in <>Poets & Writers<> mag a few months ago. The writer lamented that so many would-be novelists and short story writers admit that they very seldom read. WTF??? They claim that they don’t have time, or they don’t want to be influenced, or whatever. The writer goes on to say that subscriptions are down at so many literary magazines, while the number of MFA programs and students who enroll in them has skyrocketed. It’s difficult for me to imagine how a writer who doesn’t read can think that they can, well, <>write<>. Not to mention the fact that, if writers don’t support the industry by buying novels and subscribing to literary journals and magazines, who will? When the time comes for our own work to be published, who will buy it once the market has dried up, a phenomenon to which these non-reading writers contributed?Cheers,Marjorie

  3. I know what you mean . . . but . . . I like to read on planes or long car rides (when I’m not driving of course) etc. But I also really like to think. There are sometimes I pick up my book to read and then put it down again and just stare out in space and have a good long think about something. Even when I go to bed, which is when I read most usually, there are times when I just want to think about stuff, and enjoy it more than reading.

  4. Hi, <>Adrienne<>! Oh, I know what you mean. I spend quite a bit of time in long “think sessions,” usually when I’m in a plane or car as well (or when I’m sorting books at work — not the most mentally demanding task).Maybe I’m too quick to judge, but it does boggle my mind when I see people without a book in hand or even a set of headphones in their ears and an iPod who sit and stare blankly for hours and hours. Maybe they <>are<> contemplating quantum physics or the meaning of life, but based on the number of people who come into my library who claim to have never used their library card (although they may have had it for years), I suspect that a great many of my seatmates on planes and trains really are just engaging in a mental walkabout. As you can see, I’m a snobby little book twit who believes that you are what you read. 😉Cheers,Marjorie

  5. It was about two weeks ago that I went into my local library and did just what you’re complaining about – I had to change the address on my account because it’s been years since I used the card and all my info was out of date.I read often, but not as frequently or voraciously as some (*cough* <>youfolks<> *cough*). But I almost never use the library, especially for fiction. It’s not because I don’t enjoy it, I just tend to come by my books as presents, impulse buys, or loaners from my boyfriend, my roommate or other friends.For someone who claims to want to write fiction I should probably be reading more than I do, but I also write plays and scripts, and you’ve gotta make time to go to the theatre too. 🙂

  6. Hi, <>Marilyn<>! Ya know, my bad. I just remembered that, during my last 3-4 years in Dallas (where I lived and from whence I moved a few months ago), I rarely ventured to the library. I actually worked there my entire college life as a part-time assistant. I was just super-busy and didn’t go often — maybe once every 3-4 months — as I traveled quite a bit on business, worked crazy hours, and had other <>stuff<> going on. Plus, I went to either Borders and B&N a <>lot<>, and that was, more often than not, my book fix. I also have a very large personal library, half of which I haven’t even bloody read. So I can totally understand that just because some people don’t frequent the library as often as others, it doesn’t mean they don’t value books. I was thinking of those people who haven’t been in years (…and years and years…) just because they don’t read.Sigh. I miss live theater. We don’t get much of that out here in this remote outpost. Movies are my thing now. Cheers,Marjorie

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