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4.27.2009

books books books


i'll not forget the moment i learned to read. i was relatively young--preschool, maybe. sitting in the sunlit hallway--my legs dangling from the navy plastic chairs with slats--i pieced a sentence together. i sounded it out and made one word, then another, then another and just like that the code was broken. what had once been strange hieroglyphic symbols became moving thoughts. i understood. and so i spent that first weekend sitting in a multitude of different chairs reading that same book, max the cat, to anyone who would let me. 

the perk of living down the street from my elementary school was that i didn't need to wake up early. but i did. i'd set my alarm for six and spend a good hour (maybe more) curled up on the game-room couch getting in some good solid chapters before begrudgingly rising to dress. and i didn't mind the long afternoon ride across town to pick my brother up from school. i amused myself with books. i look back on these things now and laugh. you couldn't pry me out of bed before ten (if i could get away with it) and the motion sickness i now get from attempting to focus on anything in a car is enough to keep me from ever again trying. 

but the love of a good book. that just won't change. not ever. reading was the first thing i was ever good at. my greatest talent. of course, it's my greatest talent--it's the one thing that i get to be good at and never have to share with anyone else. i wouldn't be able to share it even if i tried. convenient, isn't it? no one can say that it isn't my greatest talent? no one can fight me on this one, you see?but what i mean is--my ability to fall into a story--for the words to fade away behind images that arise naturally without conscious thought--is this making sense? any of it? not to worry, in this thing (at least) words fail me. 

i only bring it up because...all my life i think i've striven to make manifest the talent lost to solitude. acting seemed the natural solution. and oh how i love to act. and any talent i have to acting i owe entirely to my love of reading. the love of reading that cultivated the love of words. the love of structure. the musicality of language itself. someone recently told me (i think it was his way of flirting) that i seemed to possess a musical soul, and did i? i laughed brazenly. i played the clarinet for over five years and was a disaster with it. and much as i love to sing--rhythm has never been my thing. i can't stand jazz (oh trust me i wish i did, i inherently get that it's just so damn cool) and i actually loathe opera (even if the note on my sidebar suggests otherwise). so i laughed brazenly, looked him in the eye and said,  do words count? because if they do then yes--yes, my soul is terribly musical

sometimes i would be asked, just what it is about the act of acting itself that you love so much? and i wouldn't know how to answer. there was no tangible reason. i swung miserably in the air grasping at straws. and then i would ask myself, why do i love this? why am i doing this? and slowly and surely i'd pick up a good play and read a brilliant passage and lose my breath because between my fingers i held the answer. the plays. the ideas. the words. oh, my god, the words. 

you know why shakespeare is so good? have you ever seen macbeth? well, there's this moment where the son of the slain king attempts to avenge his father by getting this other noble man who's just lost his wife and two kids to macbeth's hands on the merry bandwagon of revenge. and this guy--they guy who's just lost his wife and two kids--do you know what his response is? okay, ready yourself for this (i even pulled out an old signet edition just to be sure, Act IV, scene III, line 216):

He has no children. 

read it again. sound it out--as if you're learning to read. the line is gloriously monosyllabic! He. has. no. children. imagine this--as an actor you're thinking oh my god, i have no idea what it feels like to lose a wife and children. this man must be beside himself. how can i ever hope to act this part? don't. don't act it. for the love of god, please don't act it. just turn round, look the other bloke in the eyes and speak the words that shakespeare has given you--put them out into the space. He has no children. holy smokes. he's saying, there is no possible way to hurt macbeth as he has just hurt me. because he has no children. no flowerly language. direct to the point and absolutely deadly. 

it all seems a bit ridiculous now that it didn't strike me sooner--that i'd like shaping the words just as much as i loved to speak them. don't get me wrong--i am not a playwright. i have no intention of becoming one. but here i am a year out of school, no acting to be seen anywhere and words--the writing of them--no matter how silly or seemingly unimportant--these little words, their creation is saving me. saving my life. introducing me to myself. little gulps of air that i manage just before falling back beneath the rising water as my legs keep kicking me upwards. 

i don't know why i'm writing all this. perhaps as an explanation...if i've been a little absent lately it's because i've been working tirelessly at my penultimate talent. i copied down all of your book suggestions into my barnes and noble book journal entitled book lust, and decided to begin instead with novel on my roommate's shelf, Dancing on Thorns. The cover made it look a little trashy and quite a bit of fun and after weeks of sludging (ugh, the sludge) through The Emperor's Children, i felt entitled to a bit of fun. 

ohhhh, my friends, i'm loving it. i've spent hours reading it. it's quite long and i wouldn't have it any other way and I don't want it to end. i was up till three in the morning last night (and i had to be up at seven). it's all about the world of ballet and the genius of a true artist and the toll that takes and what must be sacrificed and is the sacrifice worth it--i could go on and on. i find that it's quite well written. and it is unbelievably, undeniably sexy--i've never read a sexier book. it's poignant and moving and far from perfect and i'm loving every second of it. so you put it on your list. and i promise to read the one's you've left me (my aunt texted me because she couldn't figure out how to leave a blog comment, so i'll pass on that she suggests Steinbeck's East of Eden). 





oh and did i mention this is set in london? i've been before but the constant references to the west end and covent gardens is...oh i just have to go again. and soon. 

11 comments:

Diana said...

i love how you remember the moment of when you first learned to read. that is a beautiful way to describe it and i admire how you have your work entwined with your love of the written word.

iheartkiwi said...

are you still taking suggestions? i think you will love the dud avocado by elaine dundy. the main character is named sally jay gorce, she's an american living in 1950s paris. could you ask for anything more?

ditto on the emperor's children. ugh.

Love, KSBL said...

I can't wait to graduate and pass my boards for nursing to be able to pick up a book for pleasure!

Only about 10 months left!
Yay!

---

And I completely understand - love of books can never be taken away from you! I love books!

Tina Tarnoff said...

I am absolutely going to read this book - I'm already hooked! I love ballet, and I lived in London, I miss London, I want to go back to London, now, anytime, soon.

And, btw, the next book I'm dying to read, my dear... is written by you.

jess said...

I love getting caught up in a book.. once I start it's all I eat, sleep, and breath! Sometimes hubby and I just sit in bed next to each other reading... it's the best!!

Carlita said...

i just love a well written post about the love and desire to read. you said it better than most, and i couldn't agree more.


just lovely.

Kimberly said...

I appreciate and relate to your love of books. I can't remember when I first learned to read, but I've been ravenous for knowledge ever since. Being an avid reader probably makes you an even better actress and clearly a better writer than most others. It fosters the imagination vital to living a wondrous and full life. It's so nice to see someone else who hasn't let such a beautiful thing go.

CC. said...

good writers always stem from bookworms, of course you love to read, your writing is beautiful :)

p.s. i tagged ya in one of those silly blog chain-letters

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I like your description of the joys of reading, language, and Dancing on Thorns.
Rebecca Horsfall is a wonderfully exciting author - have you seen her website ?

Meg Fee said...

Dear Anonymous,

I googled her and found the website in hopes that she had other books published or one soon on its way. I'm so so very hoping that one is soon on its way. if not, i might just have to start this one all over again and soon!

Hanako66 said...

what a beautiful post.

I absolutely identify with how you get lost in the words...I am the same way.

I love your reading suggestions...please keep them coming.