Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The rights of the reader

I'm currently reading a book called The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac. And it's awesome.

It might seem odd (or maybe not) that I'd read a book about what a wonderful hobby reading is, since I already love to read, but this book articulates everything I love about reading, and learning to read, and discovering books, in better language than I could dream up. When I write my official review, I'm going to pretty much quote the entire thing.

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about how mind-numbingly dull high school was. I really wanted to skip, say second through fourth grade. Which would have gotten me to high school at point in my mental development when it probably wouldn't have been so dull. (Although, emotionally, on the other hand, it would have been a train wreck.)

I commented to my friend that during the summers, I would easily read seven or eight books at the same time. (Now that I have work and grown-up responsibilities, my max is about 3 before it gets stressful.) What would happen is, my mother would go to the library a couple days a week (it was across the street, and she a librarian) and bring home some books. They'd be on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the dining room table, the porch. Some would make it upstairs into the (accurately, but somehow inaccurately named) TV room. Some would end up on my sister's bedside table, some on mine, some on the floor next to my mother's bed (see, Captain America, I inherited this trait!).

And as we mosied around the house, my sister or I would pick up one book, ask whoever was reading it how it was. We'd sit at the old-fashioned telephone table, waiting for a friend to pick us up to take us somewhere, and start a book that had been placed there as someone ran inside to answer the (land-line) phone (which was, ironically, located not on the telephone table, but in the kitchen, where everyone used to keep their phone). We'd start a book in one room, leave it to get a snack, and begin another as we stood at the kitchen counter (on one leg) eating a bowl of cereal.

We'd tear out strips of the Ladies' Home Journal that my grandmother would bring over as impromptu bookmarks. Sometimes there would be multiple bookmarks in any one book; part of the challenge was remembering which bookmark was yours.

Is anybody still reading this? my mother would yell as she readied herself for a new trip to the library. Sometimes we'd have requests...the second or third or fourth in a series...another book by the same author...a chapter book the kids we babysat were reading so we could catch up and understand what they were talking about when they called us muggles (was this really an insult or are kids just ridiculous?). Yes, even in high school, my mother picked out my books (she was, after all, a librarian).

Who does this belong to? I'd holler down the stairs. My sister would answer her friend, or my grandmother would claim it, or I'd have picked it up babysitting. Books littered my youth the way the shoes accumulated by the front door when we had friends over. (My father had more fits over the shoes than the books...I'm not sure if this was a pick-your-battles scenario or if books just stack better than shoes do.)

Books still litter my house. Instead of getting rid of some of them, we buy more bookshelves. Put the story aside, we're about to have dinner, my husband tells me. Could you put some of these on a shelf, he admonishes, Josafina is cleaning today.

My sister uses rule #2, the right to skip, and rule #3, the right not to finish a book (I can't bring myself to do this). I've mastered rules #4, the right to read it again (somehow Dobby dies EVERY TIME. It's still tragic); #6, the right to mistake a book for real life (um, hello, I have second breakfast EVERY DAY; if second breakfast is real, then by the transitive (or some such) property, Hobbits are real); and #7, the right to read anywhere (most recent bizarre reading location: in a bar during an MMA fight). My whole family uses #5, the right to read anything (I would add the emphasis ANYTHING!!), and #9, the right to read out loud (my sister and I were first introduced to Harry Potter when I read it out loud to her as she was recovering from surgery).

But my favorite rule is rule #1, the right not to read. I've never used it, but it would be a sad day if I had to read rather than got to read.

1 comment:

  1. #2 and #3 are essential for my sanity - I don't suffer fools gladly, and the same thing applies to authors of books. Thanks, VA.