Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bookworms Anonymous

I just picked up a new batch of books from the PO so if I don't answer the phone...

Hello. My name is Sondra. I am a Bookworm. I have books on shelves, books in boxes, books stacked on tables, books hidden behind the sofa, books cradled in the laundry hamper. Books are crowding me out of the house. Lately I have asked myself some hard questions. After a fearless and searching inventory of my innermost motives, I have no doubt. I am a Chronic Reader.

Some folks are Social Readers. When it comes to books, they can take it or leave it. You see them at the airport picking up Oprah’s latest recommendation to read on the plane to Boston . If blessed with a chatty seatmate they will not open the book. I look at them with scorn. At the airport I am like a glutton checking to see if there are any books I have missed. I usually buy one or two just in case I am not in the mood for the three I brought with me for the forty-five minute flight to Helena with a touch down in Lewistown.

The Periodic Reader grabs light summer reading for her week on the beach in Maui . She will probably leave the book in the hotel room when she checks out. If I were in Maui that same week, I would browse through two or three bookstores. And I would not leave a book behind. Once I bought another suitcase to cart home my literary treasure trove.

The Maintenance Reader keeps three or four novels at his bedside. He reads for a few minutes or an hour before he turns the light out. I, however, have three or four stacks of books alongside my bed. Enough said.

The Binge Reader can walk by books without a thought. Until one day, hit with an overpowering urge to read, she will hole up under the cottonwood in her back yard, or lock the front door and feast in her living room, or spend hours in the library until she has the urge out of her system and her life returns to normal. She tends to read by category or by author, devouring all the books she can find by Dick Francis or Amy Tan or Joyce Carol Oates.

I, however, am a Chronic Reader. I am powerless over books. I can’t help myself. I cannot remember ever not reading. I grew up devouring Victorian literature because my Grandmother controlled what books she saw me read. I studied cereal boxes at the breakfast table. I poured over the “The Farm Journal” and “Successful Farming”. In high school I knew more about waste disposal systems on pig farms than any boy in my class. I read whatever was in front of me. I did my homework ignoring the television, with “Forever Amber” sneaked beneath the pages of my math book. Neither math nor television has ever influenced my life. I still don’t understand why “Forever Amber” was a banned book.

People ask me, “Does reading interfere with your social life?” A: “No, all my friends are readers.” Or, “Do you spend more time reading than you planned?” A: “Doesn’t everybody?” “Have you ever bought books instead of groceries?” A: “Doesn’t everybody?” “Do you miss work because of reading?” A: “Mmmmm.” “Have you ever lied about how much you read?” A: “Why would I lie?” “Do you read to escape?” A: “Doesn’t everybody!” “Have you ever denied your children essentials because of your book buying?” A: “Of course not. For example, I fed them nutritious meals and we all had our nose in a book while we ate.”

One question does make me wriggle uncomfortably in my chair. “Do you spend more money than you planned on books?” I have white-knuckled it past Barnes and Noble, eyes averted, more than once. But I ask you, how does one stick to a book budget when irresistible bargains crop up. I cruise the book boxes at yard sales and the sale racks at the Goodwill. I once carted home sixty three books for fifty cents each. I feel high just remembering it.

I cannot deny that I am a heavy reader. I know the location of every second hand bookstore in Montana , Idaho and Washington . I run a tab at the Havre Book Exchange. I once drove from Elliott Bay Books in Seattle to Powell’s Books in Portland in search of an out of print book of Richard Hugo’s poetry. Something wrong with that?

I am a Bookworm. I don’t intend to quit. I read books. I re-read books. I hang out at the library and at bookstores. Some weeks I spend more on books than groceries. Right now I am under doctor’s orders to read. Well, he didn’t exactly say I had to read. But I have to keep my injured leg elevated so what else am I to do? I feel like a pig rolling in gumbo. Do you know W. O. Mitchell, the Saskatchewan author of “Roses Are Difficult Here”? I have seven of his books, just arrived parcel post. Did you know you can order used books over the internet for practically nothing? Did you know there are two bookstores in Havre which not only have shelves of second hand books but also carry the latest by Montana authors? Have you read Kent Haruf? How about Ivan Doig? For me there is no cure. WooHoo! Bring on the books!

Sondra Ashton
Havre Daily News: Home Again
August 6, 2009


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