Books · Quotes · Reading

Books & Beginnings IV

img_1099Watership Down by Richard Adams both traumatized and delighted me. The story ensured I would never look at rabbits the same again nor would I ever eat rabbit stew again. This masterful tale is an engaging and amazing story of family, strength, courage against impossible circumstance, and vulnerability born nobly. This was the book’s beginning from my post Books & Beginnings III

The next book enraged me, sent me into despair, and informed me on the corrupted nature of my fellow man.  It turned the playground bully into a monster. I had met in some form or another every character in this book.

When I finished it, it was a summer evening. I was nine years old. My parents were on the screen porch having a drink. I ran out, book in hand which I had finished in a single day,  and slung it at them. I wished my mother had never told me of its existence. It haunts me to this day.  It is brilliant. It is true. It is fiction. I wonder if you recognize it.

The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.

“Hi!” it said. “Wait a minute!”

Books · Quotes · Reading · Writing

Books & Beginnings II

At age eight, books turned from escape to pure magic. I would read them out loud to anyone or anything that cared to listen from the perch in a tree house my friends and I had constructed in the little stretch of woods that ran behind our houses and the neighborhood next to the lake.

img_1095In Books & Beginnings I my mother brought me A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine D’Engle.  At the time, the book had been out for more than ten years but to me it was fresh and new. This was one of my earliest influences apart from the obvious. These great books will continue in the general order I discovered them.

img_1097I read madly. It was late in my 8th year or early in my 9th year, I became enamored of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  Those I would read every year through my university studies. And then there was C.S. Lewis – it started with The Chronicles of Narnia. These were the obvious influences on the writer I grew into. I found great truths in these volumes that many cast aside as trite fantasy.

I discovered Agatha Christie and her mysteries in the shelves of my mother’s family beach house along with a constant deluge of mysteries and thrillers that my parents called “beach cozies”. I read them all.

As my eighth year ended, my grandmother on my father’s side, began my instruction in two areas I loved, history and theater. We began to attend plays together and she instructed me on European history going back to.before the Romans began their conquest.

It was these stories that influenced the next great beginnings. It was near my ninth birthday when my mother dug deeper into her bookshelves and came out with a thin book of poetry, the most gorgeous verse I had ever imagined, and a thick paperback that encased a story based on that verse.

TreehouseUp to my treehouse I went. The birds, squirrels, snakes, my English Springer, Winston, standing guard below,  and myriad of insects, and the neighbor’s fat orange hunting cat joined me on an adventure that changed the way I thought of story.  I read every word out loud, staying until the light was too dim for me to read another word. It made me often late for dinner.

By the time I received this amazing book, the pages were browned with age, making the story all the more authentic to me. I loved the scent and feel of old books on my fingers. The opening of this volume suggested a routine life familiar to my own. One that sparked into adventure … and great tragedy. I never gave this book back to my mother. It became one of my treasures.  Can you guess the title?

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was Organon, Repetition, and Astrology. The governess was always getting muddled with her astrolabe, and when she got specially muddled she would take it out of the Wart by rapping his knuckles.

Books · Quotes · Reading · Writing

Books & Beginnings I

img_1061-1I learned to read at age three. It saved my mother from having me muling for her to read me a story night and day. By eight or nine, I had exhausted my love for children’s literature and started at my parent’s bookshelves where I found such treasures as Plato’s Republic and Dante’s Inferno. My parents both studied literature in college.

My cousin gave me J.R.R. Tolkien at age nine but between eight and nine was a difficult time as reading was a fierce addiction for me.  I no longer enjoyed children’s books and my parents bookshelf had an upper shelf I could not reach. They refused to assist me in acquiring the books on the top shelves. They told me I was too young or some such nonsense. It was a condition I easily outgrew, but not at age eight.

One day my mother brought home a book from the library. She made a game of trying to find something that I would love. I could not fathom Dante and Plato was a bit boring, at least when I was eight.  She held the book up and said this was a book written for children like me. She was right. I wonder if you will recognize it as well.

This book, one of the greats of all time for young readers, starts in a way writers are cautioned never to begin their books. With the weather. Funny, how the best writers always break the rules. Funny, how when they do, it is in such a sublime fashion. Recognize this? Such wondrous magic.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

It was a dark and stormy night. 

In her attic bedroom, Margaret Murray, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. 

Do you know this? Feel free to comment.

Books · Reading · Writing

Books & Beginnings

BlankBookAutumn is my favorite season. As the year is dying, I feel more renewed than dormant flowers rediscovering the sun in Spring. During September 2018, I will be sharing some of my favorite beginnings from the books that thrilled me, informed me, and changed me forever.

Yes, reading has that power.

I am doing this as an experiment. I wish to discover how many of my ones of readers are shaped by similar books that have moved me. What books have shaped you? I really am curious.   For example, this beginning was an adventure that started in my childhood and continues to this day. HobbitOpening

Some will be obvious and somewhat universal as this famous opening of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Others more obscure or simply new.

Please, feel free to share your favorites.

Books · Depression · Mental Illness

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

img_1067Last week, my daughter called me. She had been feeling ill for several days. After discussing the symptoms, and her finding that she could not get through the work day, she visited an Urgent Care center.  After a couple of quick tests, antibiotics were given,  and two days later, she was fully on the mend.

 Modern medicine is truly a  marvel.  An infection that would have been quite serious a hundred years ago is now easily cured with a pill. Too bad deadly diseases like depression, addiction, and mental illness do not enjoy such a simple cure.

Doctors often prescribe pills to quiet the more serious demons that plague us, the ones that have us setting off to destroy ourselves and others. Often, the pill does little put turn us into walking zombies, but without the lust for eating brains. At least, that was my experience with pills. Johann Hari found this same sad truth in his own journey, and made it his mission to find out how we might better help those who suffer from depression and related mental illness in his book Lost Connections. 

Yes, people have received relief from pills. This book can make proponents of the “it’s just an imbalance in your brain” theory furious. After all, simple answers are always easier to deal with.

Until they don’t work.

This book hit me where I live. I have suffered from severe depression with manic episodes since my early teen years. Undiagnosed until my early twenties when I was given my first pill. When I was growing up three things were believed and presented to me in this order:

  1. Just get over it. You’re being hysterical, you stupid girl.
  2. Ok, maybe you have a hormonal imbalance. Take a pill. Get over it. Stupid girl.
  3. Don’t tell anyone you are having such self-pitying thoughts. It’s shameful, stupid girl.

Damn, I wish this book had been done 30 years ago. However, it made me understand the broken road I traveled. I instinctively knew that a pill could not “fix” me.  Depression does not go away.

The issues that cause it are real, and this is a severely malfunctioning society we are asked to make peace with. Perhaps, the crazy ones are the ones that do not have issues dealing with their lives. There is that.

But when you can’t pull yourself out of bed, when you feel physical pain because the stress of your life is so harsh, when you self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction, you need help. Just like someone who has an infection needs help to get better.

Depression and its various cohorts are always waiting to strike you down at weak moments. My last episode was less than two weeks ago. Only when I have these episodes in the last few years, I know they will pass. I know I am not alone.  I have friends, do what I love, look forward to the future, and have a job I adore working for at my local school system. The broken things …well, we all have broken things in our lives.

img_1068This book has helped people I love dearly who are younger and battling similar forces that I have grappled with all my life. I believe this book will make their road less rocky.

If you or anyone you know suffers from mental illness and addiction, please read this book. It does not offer a magical cure. No, it offers hope that attitudes are changing, research is expanding, and perhaps, an urgent care center with a low co-pay fully covered by insurance will eventually be readily available for those in crisis with more than a pill to offer.

The book will not give solace to everyone. I have an older relative suffering from crippling depression and addiction who came from a generation where there was such a huge stigma attached to mental illness, she refuses to seek help. She is too ashamed and that is a tragedy.

She is doing the opposite of what is shown to help. So many fall into this trap, making their depression louder and louder until it consumes them into despair. She is isolating herself from friends and family. She has stopped doing all the things she used to love. She does not feel purpose or belonging. Those are two of the many things that any human psyche, even that of the writer type human, needs to function in a healthy manner.

So please, if you feel lost, if you feel like there is no one you can reach out to, you are really not alone. Especially now days. Please, read Lost Connections by Johann Hari. You will find hope here. Truly.