It's one of the reasons why we actually have a culture. We read. I think reading is an essential part of our life. It contains our history, our life. I mean probably some time in the past, man didn't know how to record things so he kept everything by memory and passed it on to his son or daughter. However, memory is a fragile thing and it fades over time. Eventually we learned to write, be it through hieroglyphs, carvings, or pen and paper. Of course, what use is writing if we don't read it?
Of course my approach to reading is something more mundane. I like to read because it's fun. I mean I could probably watch TV all day and find nothing enjoyable. However, I could go to a bookstore and find something nice to read and viola, instant entertainment (paying for it, of course, is another matter). And considering my lifestyle of living in solitary confinement (not by choice), reading is the perfect hobby.
It all started when I was a babe. Parents were keen on teaching their children to read. It's a necessity for them. Did you really think my parents would be an exception?
The strange thing about age is that the younger you are, the better your memory serves you. While I wasn't exactly great at reading when I was four, I was a master when it came to memorization. I remember playing a trick on my parents by feigning how to read. You see one of the books my parents usually bought for me were those that were specially tailored for kids, you know, the ones with audiotapes. Of course I could read it, but not as fast as speaking naturally. I memorized an entire book with the audiotape as my guide, remembering where a passage would end and when it's time to turn the page. The book was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs if I'm not mistaken. So one afternoon, I invited them to come to my room and I "showed" them my reading prowess. I rehearsed the entire thing beforehand and I could do it flawlessly. However, during the actual performance, I made one mistake. I decided to actually read it and I lost my pacing. My parents caught me as I had a long pause looking for the entry where I could resume reading the tale. Of course that was nearly sixteen years ago and I'm improved since then.
By the time I was in grade school, I was playing video games and all that. While I liked reading, I didn't exactly go out of the way to buy books. However, I was keenly interested on two topics: mythology and dinosaurs. I was curious about mythology, of Greek gods and what they were known for. Since I'm actually privileged to have an encyclopedia set at home (which no one uses but me, by the way), I didn't have to go out and buy Edith Hamilton's mythology book. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether. Sure, they'd be listed in the encyclopedia but they didn't have all the juicy details I wanted. So I did go out of my way to purchase books with reference material on that subject matter. And of course, Dinoriders was showing on TV so I also purchased the toys.
Later on around grade four or five, my classmates were having the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew fad. I wasn't really part of it but I was curious. When I finally managed to borrow a book, I was daunted by its thickness. Perhaps what made it look thick to me was the fact that it was hardbound. Maybe I'll pass this one, I said to myself. So that was an opportunity lost, or was it?
While most would consider books as the only definite source of literature, I was reading something else entirely at that time. I was reading video game magazines from cover to cover. You'd be surprised at the plots and ideas game creators could come up. More importantly, you'd be surprised at how detailed game reviews can be and how much topics a game magazine can cover. Since I was also a fool back then, I also bought game-related paraphernalia and that includes books. The "choose your own adventure" type of books was also prevalent during that time and one of the books I remember buying (and is still in my shelf) were the Zelda and Mario Bros. Books which were similar in nature. There's also the Worlds of Power which were adaptations of popular Nintendo games.
Sometime in 1995, the Jurassic Park craze hit me, especially since I was a fanatic when it came to dinosaurs. The first novel I read was Jurassic Park and it took me a month to finish, mainly because it got confiscated as I was "reading" it in class. Of course it was also in that year that I had a revival in my mythology: I started reading fantasy.
Most fantasy fanatics would cite Tolkien as their best epic fantasy author. Perhaps it?s because he published the first book of its kind, or perhaps some just love his work. For me, it wasn't Tolkien but Terry Brooks. Of course I'm not saying Terry Brooks is the best fantasy writer out there. It just happens that I first read his books and I liked them. A lot. He's the reason I got into fantasy. Now what I read was his Heritage of Shanarra trilogy which is composed of four books. Me and my friend Timothy managed to complete the set (don't you hate it when you have to collect several books just to know the story's start and end?) and we pursued other fantasy books. Tim went for the likes of David Eddings while I got into Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan.
Eventually, in the span of four years, I managed to catch a glimpse of the fantasy genre and how complicated it can get: numerous trilogies, ongoing story arcs, hard-to-find books, etc. It's not something I'd recommend to a starting reader. Moreover, it's not something I'd recommend to someone living in the Philippines as coming to complete a book set is almost nigh impossible when you account for the bookstore policies here. But times have changed and with globalization, smalltime bookstores, and the emergence of online shops like Amazon.com, things have become much easier (although still quite expensive).
Of course one can't really delve into fantasy without delving into the realm of science fiction. One of the better books I've read was Frank Herbert's Dune series and Anne McCaffrey's fantasy-esque Pern.
It's only last year that I went back to what veterans of the genre call "classics". Tolkien was okay although a bit boring. Actually, a lot of fantasy writers aren?t great fans of Tolkien as well. Perhaps it's his writing style. It's a bit dated and doesn't catch the attention span of "my generation". However, when the Lord of the Rings movie premiered at movie theaters, people started to catch on. But then again, they might just be riding on its popularity.
Next on my list was C.S. Lewis, writer of Narnia, a setting based on Christian mythology. For something that got praised a lot, I find that it was chauvinistic, patriarchal, and racist. Perhaps Lewis was just trying too hard to convert people to his religion.
It?s also amazing what you?ll find in the children's section of the bookstore. I like Ursula le Guin's Earthsea books and it?s something I wish I could have read when I was a kid. The same could be said for Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451, Philip Pullman's His Dark Matters trilogy, and to a certain extent, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.
Of course too much of one thing can be bad for your health. I have managed to read contemporary fiction like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. There?s also the classics like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. And of course, with today?s current technology, magazines, blogs, and anything else you can find on the Internet.
The only bad thing I can say about reading is that it keeps me too preoccupied that I stop writing, which isn't good for a Creative Writing major.
Friday, June 21, 2002
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