Friday, August 13, 2010

it doesn't matter what they read.

You can work in a good bookstore and turn into a real book snob. It's hard not to, in fact.
You work all day to find the best book for person after person, trying to make that connection. Part of that job becomes steering people away from lesser books in order to get them into greater ones; part of the job is spotting the books that you don't have to read because you've read them before, or ones so like them that you get sick of the site of that cookie cutter outline. And publishers help you out with their cover designs, they really do, thanks guys.
Posers seem to wear a certain style of jacket, you know?

But work in a good bookstore long enough and you start to move past that. Sure, I try just as hard to get Petterson and Ormondroyd into people's hands, but I no longer let someone's decision to walk out with a dragon tattoo on the crack of their breaking dawn get me down.
And, as a lot of parents would probably attest, this is one change of perspective that has been aided by lessons taught to me by my children.
Jackson has taught me that just because all of the flaps and pull-tabs have been ripped out, that doesn't mean a book is dead. We've had a copy of Maisy on the Farm for most of his almost four years, and he has gutted it. There is not an interactive bone left in this lift-the-flap/pull-the-tab disaster area. But he still pulls it off the shelf at bedtime like it's a long lost friend, and dutifully, lovingly, pretends to go through every motion.
And now little Libbie has taught me that IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT THEY READ. She loves her brother's old board books, especially a sweet little one about a train.
Jack is a born train freak. It's genetic. One day he saw a picture of a train and he was a goner. I don't even think he had ever ridden on one yet. It was this obsession, waiting, coiled in his cortex, and when it sprung, or sprang, it stayed that way. And Libbie has adopted it. She'll flip through the pages, and each time she sees that little shiny black train rolling through the fields, she'll jab her forefinger on or near it, look into your face, contract her brow, and BELLOW.

Who knows if she even really likes trains? She's reading it for the same reason that this customer just bought the first Stieg Larsson...because everyone else has. For the same reason the Stephenie Meyer's books are read...because everyone else reads them. In her case, everyone else is Jack, Jess, and I. She can follow our lead for as long as she wants, because I believe that someday a page will turn and she'll read some words that will act like a big vaudeville hook, and they'll jerk her off track and onto a whole new reading journey.

And it will happen for everyone, and it might happen for you if you'll just take my damn word for it and read David and the Phoenix right now, today.
Or Fathers and Crows.
Or Tropic of Capricorn.
Or Lucky Jim.
Or Small Lives.
Or
or
or.

1 comment:

Chris M. said...

Paul,

This is a wonderful commentary on the joys of reading. Thanks!

- Chris Morgan