Thursday, March 20, 2014

I'm addicted to reading and don't want to be cured

Like most people who like to write, I like to read. Actually, I love to read.

I've been accused of being addicted to reading. Like other kinds of addicts, I've resorted to sneaking and cheating to satisfy my addiction.
  • When I was in first grade, I had a ridiculous 7:30 PM bed time. I got into bed, pulled the blanket over my head, and read with a flashlight.
  • Later, maybe in third grade, when my technical skills improved, I came up with a better solution. I put a bright light bulb in my bedroom closet and it was bright enough to illuminate a book when I was in bed. I attached a long string to the pull-chain that controlled the light, and put a tennis ball at the end of the string. When I heard my parents approach, I yanked the string to shut off the light, and tossed the tennis ball and string into the closet to hide the evidence, and made believe I was asleep.
  • The ultimate evolution of my scam occurred around sixth grade. I installed a photoelectric cell in the garage, aimed outward. If my parents were out for the evening, and then came home when I was supposed to be asleep, the car's headlights would trigger the photocell which then rang a bell in my bedroom -- so I could shut off my light and shut my eyes.
  • Later on, my parents didn't care how late I stayed up, and I often read until midnight, and started again around 4 AM. 
  • In my senior year in high school, my English teacher required us to read and report on one book each month, with a bonus if we could read one book each week. I half-jokingly asked her what would happen if I did one a day. She half-jokingly said she'd give me an "A." I read the books, wrote the (short) reports, and got my "A."
  • When I was in college, I was still building book shelves a week before I was going to move out of my apartment and go to New York to be a magazine editor. (Assistant editor, actually.)
I am seldom far from books. I figured out that my house has nearly 400 linear feet of book shelves, which means I must have (GASP!) nearly 4,000 books. There are also books in cartons, and in drawers and in my cars, on the UPS truck on their way to me, and on my phone, Kindle Fire and iPad.

I order books from Amazon at least once a week, and buy at my local Barnes & Noble at least twice a month. I also download ebooks.

I'm a fast reader, but I can't possibly read fast enough to keep up with the inflow. Even if I stopped buying new books, I probably won't live long enough to read all of my old books.

Even worse, for some inexplicable reason, I stopped reading books a while ago. I have no idea how or why. It just happened. I also stopped smoking a pipe shortly after I got married in 1971, and no longer ski or SCUBA dive. I also watch fewer movies.

I missed reading the most, but somehow just could not get in the mood until the beginning of this year. I restarted with The Brothers Emanuel by brother Zeke. I've been reading it mostly on my smart phone, and occasionally on a PC or Kindle. I like being able to switch from device to device.

I recently made some physical changes in my home office/man cave. It's loaded with electronics, has a mini-fridge, an animated talking deerhead on the wall, three parking meters, a coin collecting device from an old New York bus, CDs and DVDs, a traffic cone, two paper cutters, FIVE printers, three laptops, one desktop, an original "portable" Compaq PC, jars of coins which should go to the bank, tools, and lots of pictures and crap that no one else would appreciate. 

The cave now functions as my Main Reading Room. The Library of Congress has a Main Reading Room, so why shouldn't I?

It has an extremely comfortable leather loveseat (a stupid term for furniture in a man cave), a blue blankie if I feel the need to cover up, and a table next to the man couch that holds a tall lamp that can be aimed right at whatever I'm reading. The table ($9 at Ikea -- I bought three of them) also holds a phone, my iPad and Kindle Fire, some books, a bunch of bookmarks, a red pen for marking things that piss me off, and a few of my remote controls. It's also a good place to keep my reading glasses. The john and the fridge are just a few steps away.

In a reversal of my parents' reading curfew, I've instituted a mandatory reading period, from 6:30 to 7:30 AM three days a week. It's almost 6:33 now, so I'll soon stop typing and move over to my man couch.

Today I expect to start The Jews of Prime Time by David Zurawik. Or maybe I'll start Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean. Or maybe something else. It's nice to live in a library. It's nice to be the acquisitions librarian.

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