Earlier this week I attended a reading given by the incomparable Elizabeth Berg. The library meeting room was packed–and at noon on a Tuesday!
Elizabeth was gracious, elegant, and so polished. She’d clearly done this before. For example, on OPRAH three times.
Oprah. Three. Times.
Whoops! I fell down there. Was feeling a little faint. I’ll pull myself together. Where’s my brown paper bag?
I introduced myself to some women sitting next to me: turns out they were in a book club! Yes, you’ve got my number: I was doing the Driving Sideways dance for them, forwards and backwards and left and right. They were just plain fun, and I do hope they contact me for a visit.
As people streamed out after the reading, I overheard the following from some very primped and polished women sitting behind me: “Novels? No, I only get them from the library. I don’t buy novels.”
(Here. Let me pass you my brown paper bag. This one has whiskey in it.)
I understand that for some people of limited financial means, borrowing books and resources from the library is done of necessity. For these high maintenance women? Yachting is done of necessity. Attending book signings and emphasizing your refusal to buy the book of the featured author? I’m still scratching my head on that one.
I couldn’t even imagine NOT buying novels. I want to be surrounded by books. I want them in shelves on every wall of my house. I want them piled by my bed, stacked by my favorite reading chair, tucked into my glove compartment for train and traffic emergencies. I love the smell of books, the feel of them, and above all, the words in them. Like a possessive lover, I need to make them mine. I don’t want to share them with any other readers. (Well, unless I know you. Then I am happy to lend you a few. Because I know where you live. And I’m not afraid to come over and eat all your Doritos and drink all your Red Zin until you give me my babies back.)
I attribute my feeling about books, about reading and writing, to my parents (see! I AM going to bring this home for a landing on the topic!), who kept our house stocked with books, who journaled and read and bought books and had writer friends over for dinner while we spied on them through the heating grate in the dining room ceiling.
One of the very nice women I met at the signing asked if my parents read to me while I was growing up.
“Oh yes! And I requested The Rescuers so many times they actually hid the book from me so we could read something else.”
So Mom (and Dad)? Thank you for making reading a priority in our house. Because of you, I will buy novels for the rest of my life.