One of my passions since high school has been reading. Yeah, I am one of those old nerdy guys that enjoys opening up a book and getting lost in the world that the writer has created with their words. Although I do have a pretty good eBook library too.
Initially it was the old Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Justice League of America, (the DC Comics) each issue cost twelve cents and I would go over to Johnny Foster’s little store on Main Street in Newport several times a week to see if a new issue had come out, to thumb through the ones he had in on his twirling rack. I never did get into the Marvel Comics heroes, although Spider-Man and Dr. Strange were the exceptions.
I really think that I learned to read more and better with those comic books than I ever did in school and the boring crap that we had to deal with there. I still can’t remember a single book I read in school before high school, even though every year we read quite a few. Though I remember buying books through their scholastic book sales.
The other place that I learned to love books for their own sake was in my grandfather’s living room, there were always Zane Gray and other westerns around to pick up and read or re-read if there was a rainy day outside or I had finished my homework and was just sitting around waiting until I had to go home for the night.
In high school I was exposed to 1984, the worlds of Heinlein, Huxley and yes, Tolkien. All those Science Fiction and High Fantasy, along with many of the classics (that I hated to read, but am glad that I had them forced down my throat now). In study hall there was a pretty good chance that this nerdy kid was reading about the adventures of John Carter or flying in some distant galaxy, imagining himself as the hero of the story and getting so immersed in the book that the study hall monitor would have to come up and remind me to get my ass to the next class.
What does this have to do with anything Harold?
Well not too much has changed since high school when it comes to what I read. I still love high fantasy and while Tolkien is the basis for much of it, other writers have captured my imagination better. Writers like: Gaiman, de Lint, Brooks, McKiernan, Gemmel, Gavriel Kay and so many others.
The worlds they have created are so real to me while I am reading that I am transported into them and vicariously participate in their adventures there. Although I cannot say that I would want to actually live in those worlds, since death, pain, suffering, fighting, killing and dying are so much a part of the stories they weave. Though the great adventure and the obstacles overcome against the odds are fantastic to imagine being a part of, I have a feeling that the real Harold would not last throughout the opening scene and I would be one of the fodder for the evil antagonist.
That is why reading the adventures and using my imagination is much safer than living them and I think that is the way for many of us in today’s world. We do not take the road less travelled by…we merrily go down the road that is well paved (with or without good intentions) and take a break at what we believe to be a rest stop whenever things get too hard. Then when the obstacles in front of us get too difficult instead of attempting to find a solution (either within ourselves or with the help of others), we go to great lengths to go around the problem or attempt to ignore it until it cannot be anymore.
Sometimes we need like the characters in the books we read, face the problem or issue, no matter the long odds against us and see if we can find a solution that is better than continuing in the same direction that we always have.
Yeah, reading does require us to think about our own lives in comparison to the worlds and lives that the writers have created for us. No book is as simple as protagonist, antagonist, a problem, a journey, a fight or war, the low point, the solution, the heroic journey against all odds, the resolution and happily ever after. There are too many words in between that make us think of other similarities in our reality and the writers do attempt to make us see things from other perspectives than the single one we typically live.
Maybe that is why so many people in today’s world do not want to read, they want to live inside of the cocoon of the world they have created for themselves with no thought to how others might perceive it.
Therefore, they can always be right in their minds, although whether they are or not is open to debate by others, but very seldom themselves. Then again there is no debate in today’s world there is only my way and everyone else is wrong. All too often I see that when our beliefs or understanding of “whatever” are challenged that too many of us lash out and attack any and all that dare question us.
After all “the truth of what we believe” has many different aspects and it can be influenced by many things not the least of which are: power, greed, relationships or simply where one might live.
Kind of sad in many respects.
But then again knowing that you are “right” all the time is in itself is part of the problem isn’t it. Especially since no one is.
Wow – this post went in a completely different direction than I had initially started out to go. I thought I was going to write about the joys of reading Dennis McKiernan and his books on the world of Mithgar and I went down a few other rabbit holes. Well McKiernan would understand I am sure and the muses decided that I needed to write this instead.
The reality is that
Sometimes my fingers take me in a different direction than the brain had planned. Probably a pretty good thing, when you stop and think about it.