While I can’t recall the title, I remember the first book I took out of the library. It had a green cover and it was about a girl called Kiki. I was allowed to take it home while waiting for my new library card to arrive in the mail. I also remember a second grade library period in which I was so engrossed in reading a book; my class took off without me. For years, I read as a passenger in the car, in the tub, before classes, in line, at the breakfast table, sometimes even arriving early for appointments so I could read while I waited.
There’s not always enough time for reading these days, but this weekend I plowed through One True Thing by Anna Quindlen. Books suck me away from the here-and-now world of laundry, dinner and dishes, so there was a glass-half-full reason to be glad spring chores have been delayed by the hard pack of snow still smothering our yard. Suffering only a modicum of guilt, I camped on the couch in front of the fire, taking a break for grocery shopping and other necessary things, but otherwise, reading. All you writers out there know that in order to write, you need to read, and yes, I do find myself reading now with a writer’s eye, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it. In Quinlin’s novel, the story of a woman accused in the mercy killing of her mother, the writing is so dead-on evocative that a couple of times I stopped reading, just to say in my head, “Exactly.”
Listen to this:
But I could see her, standing at the place at the bottom of the hill where there was a dip and then a bump, yelling up at us, a cap pulled down over all but the smallest divot of eyes and nose and mouth, “Not so fast. Not so fast. Slow down. Oh, my lord, Jeffrey, you’ll give me a heart attack.” All of life like a series of tableaux, and in the living we missed so much, hid so much, left so much undone and unsaid. Jeff had broken his arm once on that hill, and she had taken her tempera paints and painted a toy soldier up the entire length of his cast. He had been mortified. One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Good-golly-gosh what I wouldn’t give to write like that. If to read well is to write well, then I’ll take that kind of homework assignment any time.