Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Philosophy

I am reading a book by Pat Conroy, "My Reading Life" (Doubleday:2010). I had bought this book before I left for Korea but lost it in the Purge of my home while I was there. I checked this book out of the library across the street at the Garden Home Recreation Center. It is a county library that is in another county that is interestingly located across the street. It is small library but has a fine collection.

Pat Conroy had a remarkable mother who most readers would have known from reading some of his books. I liked "The Great Santini" but did not like "The Prince of Tides" but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a fine writer. In this book, Conroy writes about how his life was influenced by his education and the books he read and the books his mother read. The library was an important resource for his mother and for this author who was a voracious reader as his mother was.

Conroy got a superior education and his mother learned right along with him. She also taught him her discoveries and book loves and luckily he kept notebooks where he recorded his impressions of the childhood passion that bloomed into a lifelong love of reading. He told of discovering that poetry was capable of making a colonel cry and the power of Shakespeare and although a region such as the South may have lost the war it had within its power the ability to rise up again through its literature.

I did not have such an outstanding education for public schools in Southern California were not always what they could have been and the demands on the students were not great. The libraries in San Diego and the outlying areas were sparse, but the bookstores were outstanding. Still, there were enough in the libraries to sustain me and to fill out the thin levels of education until I was fortunate enough to have a remarkable teacher in Chula Vista Adult High School who helped me get ready for college. ( I would have been happy with the small library across the street) With the money that my minimum wage jobs paid, I was able to get the books I needed. Portland is full of wonderful bookstores and so I will not be without resources here.

Conroy had a remarkable mother who opened the doors to books and to the libraries. She had her prejudices such as thinking "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell as one of the greatest books ever written. She modeled her life on Scarlett O'Hara. I think in my life I was more enthralled with "The Wizard of Oz" than anything else. Of course, I was not married to "The Great Santini". She took her children to see the movie whenever it was re-released. To be fair, I never read the book as I never had the feeling I should and only saw the movie when a date took me to it. He thought it was a great movie. I thought it was obscene as the premise of keeping slaves was to me then and now. Being raised in Southern California, the South was a faraway place that I had never seen nor experienced.

My life was as heavily influenced by the books I read as Conroy was and I envy him his relationship to his mother and to the education he received. I, too, had wonderful experiences with librarians and with special English teachers along the way. I was a lone traveler in my life except for the books that shared my life. When I see youngsters with their time spent playing games on computers and so on I feel that their lives will forever be the poorer by not spending it in a book. Thank heavens for Harry Potter.

One would wonder why a description of this book is here under a quest to be healthy and not under another blog. Conroy writes that reading saved his life and certainly reading as well as writing saved mine. I know many writers who can say the same. Certainly, readers feel their lives are much healthier and richer because of the presence of books. It also kept me from losing my mind when things were the darkest and gave me the strength to do the things I needed to do when it was necessary to do so. I can't imagine living a life without them.

When I came back from Korea, I knew things were different. I woke up in Korea and books played a part in it. I lived in Redding from the end of December 2010 to April 2011 and knew I could not stay there otherwise I would perish. When I thought about where I would go I thought about Portland with its bookstores and cultural benefits. I love my family more than I can say or express; but as the mother bird throws out the birds from the nest I had to leave the nest for my sake and theirs. They are angry, to be sure, but I need this as much as they do. As usual, books played a part in my decision.

The chapter that was Redding is closed and finished. I have started a chapter here. It is an interesting one, but like everything else there will be problems as well. My own version of the reading life should help me deal with it a bit better.

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