Friday, January 9, 2009

Nagging: A Story of Love

There was a boy, once. He was eight years old, an athlete, tall for his age, and he thought himself a little math wizard. He loved numbers, loved solving things and figuring them out. He loved to draw, too, and build things, crafting worlds from blocks and Legos and G.I.Joes (and odd combinations of all three). He liked stories, too. But he didn't like to read. He drew a line in the imaginary sand and would not cross.

There was a mother, too, of a small and bookish family. They all loved to read, all except the boy. And so she nagged, pleasantly but persistently. She nagged with the speed of the tortoise, slow and sure. If the boy had read more he would have known that the tortoise always won the race. But he resisted, holding off, holding off...

The mother kept nagging. She nagged and nagged... until finally the boy capitulated and the mother took him to the library where they withdrew a book called The Hobbit by a writer with many initials in his name.

The boy read the book.

He read it with the slow acceleration of a train, building a momentum that couldn't be halted. He finished the story, exulting, needing more. He was changed, irrevocably changed. The mother took him back to the Library to get new books by the man with many initials in his name and the boy soon found these books were even better than the first one. He now thought of the library as his friend. A romance commenced, between the boy and the books by the author with many initials in his name. He was horribly promiscuous and unfaithful, the boy, falling endlessly for other books, other stories. And yet in the end he always came back to his first love, unable to leave it completely.

It was with him forever, and that was okay. The books had become part of him, engendering an obsession with story, with words, with worlds of the imagination. They opened his eyes, a little, so that he could see beyond the easy solutions of arithmetic. Wonder and awe were not parts of a geometric puzzle, but rather of a narrative that scooped him up and carried him outside himself. And wherever he went in those stories he carried a little bit of them back with him. Little nuggets, little moon rocks brought from the sky. Each one was like a little brick. They accumulated in rough piles, here and there, until eventually he had the idea to build something with them, just as he had with his wooden blocks and plastic Legos.

And the boy was happy, for now he could create his own wonderments, his own lopsided towers of awe. A mother's love had led to nagging, and nagging to a boy's love and a boy's gratitude.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
And now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- J.R.R. Tolkien

So, folks, how about it? Did you have a first influence? What got you in the game? And who? Gimme some stories... (I'm still addicted, you see)

And thanks, Mom...


Anonymous said...

Like you, my Mom was the person who bought my first book of my own to read. I enjoyed stories and books. I did not like to read them. My older sister loved to read and I liked to listen, this did not help my skills as a reader in school, though. So my Mom bought me a book, the first in a series of eighteen. It was not a fantasy novel. The author's name was Hilda Stahl. And there began my literary career and love of reading. Unfortunately I was not introduced to Tolkien until late highschool. He is brilliant and I am a fan, although I am not a natural fan of fantasy.

Ellsea said...

I can't remember a time when I wasn't happier curled up with a book (or writing ;) ) than doing anything else, tho I don't remember either of my parents particularly having an influence. That said, there were always plenty of books around so I never went short . . .

As for first loves . . . I still remember Enid Blyton's Famous Five with great affection, and I adored Swallows and Amazons (still do) and the Narnia stories. But it was Alan Garner who electrified me - The Owl Service and The Wierdstone of Brisingamen are just such fantastic, dark, powerful stories, I'll never forget them.

Wanu said...

I think books represented choice, for me, as a child. From the age of seven, I had some great teachers in a small school who encouraged the classes to order books from the Puffin Book range. They'd send us home with the latest titles and a form. It was quite cheap, and my parents just filled out whatever was needed, and my brother and I picked one or two books from each issue.

At first, I went for the spotters' guides and things about dinosaurs, but then I discovered Roal Dahl, and then all kinds of stuff. I didn't have a pattern or type (I still don't, really, still follow my nose when it comes to reading), but read some excellent stuff. I thought of books as massive, though, and was a slow reader. I remember being off school, ill, and reading The Faraway Tree. It was the first time I read a whole book in a day! I really surprised myself! Turned the last page and thought, "Whoa! I never knew that was possible!" Text seemed smaller to me after that, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Just as an aside: Ink, that intro you did for this one was worded incredibly well. I enjoyed that!

Bookworm1605 said...

When it comes to reading, mine is a love story as well, although without the nagging.

I've been an insatiable reader since the time I was very young. My mother told me I cried when they made me return the primary readers in the first grade. 'See Jane run,' still makes me misty-eyed. I guess I was doomed to be a Weird Menace guy from the start since the only books available to me as a child were my father's Robert E. Howard paperbacks and a set of ERB's Tarzan stories in hardback. I consumed them daily, often reading an entire book in an evening. My mother frequently came into my room at 2AM and made me put a book down to go to sleep.

As I got older I discovered the rest of ERB's works and eventually branched out to a few other authors. I'm almost ashamed to admit I didn't read LOTR until just before the first movie came out.

I still remember when they built our shopping mall. I was ten years old. The first place I went when we got there was...of course, the bookstore. I'd walk down the aisles, running my fingers down the spines of the books. So many books in one place. And that sweet aroma--that boquet of freshly glued paper--hmmmmm, I can smell it now. I still love to go and just walk the aisles at the local bookstore.

Ms Kitty said...

My family are all readers, my mother writes short stories and my sister used to write spy stories.

I think I've read everything I could get my hands on starting as soon as I learned to read. I devoured my family library, by JR High I had found the public library. I read 12 to 14 books a week from then on.

My tastes as a youngster went from Walter Farley to ERB to Conan-Doyle to Andrea Norton. I still have the copies of LOTR that I got for Xmas years ago. I collected McCaffery and Zimmer-Bradley for several years. I don't care for fan fiction, and stopped reading fantasy years ago.

These days I read gardening books, technical manuals (computer stuff), books on writing, mysteries and women's fiction.

I started writing in grade school. I was a feature writer for a local newspaper. I made a living doing Technical writing for 20 years. Now writing a hobby that I'm working on perfecting. I have two novels in the trunk, one I'm marketing and one in progress.

I've read some "urban fantasy," didn't like it, so I'm writing a modern 'Gothic' novel in an "I-can-do-it-better" retaliation. By Gothic, I mean with a ghost-tormented hero, a dark, bleak setting, with some modern "Goth" elements. I'm enjoying the challenge of writing this novel.

I'm hooked on blogging too.

Damon Lord said...

Curiously enough, this is a topic I often like to read about with regards to writers; it almost gives you an insight to what makes a writer tick.

I've written about my own experiences and inspirations on my on blog; basically some of my favourite books as a child were the Garden Gang books published by Ladybird, a series of tales about anthropomorphised vegetables and fruit, written by Jayne Fisher.

I read Jayne Fisher's CV on the back of the Ladybird books, and was inspired: I, too, can do that.