I have been reading a delightful book about books. I always love reading these kinds of book but I especially like it when the author talks about how a book (or books) have shaped their thinking and being, how books have played a huge part in their lives. Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior is such a book. Literature in the Soul of Me. Don’t you just love that subtitle?
I could write multiple posts based on her quotes but for now I will just give you a small taste of this book with a few quotes from the first chapter. In this chapter Prior is dealing with censorship, more specifically, parental censorship. She says that when she was a kid, she read whatever she wanted. Her parents gave her free reign in the literary world. As I read this I realized that I shared that same world. My mom never told me what to read or what not to read. She didn’t really pay any attention to what book I had my face in. She was just happy that I was reading. I, like the author, read a few Stephen King books in my teen years and I also read Go Ask Alice, as well as other adult books that I probably should not have read.
I read quite a few questionable books in my teen years and I turned out okay. Yes, I had some mental images that I wished had not been a part of my being but can you get through life without any questionable mental images? The author argues that reading the questionable material made her wiser and more street smart in life. I agree with that. I was a good girl who led a very sheltered life (okay, my literary life wasn’t sheltered but the rest of it was.) I had the potential to be a naïve girl but my literary life kept me from being so. I know that some people would argue that naïve isn’t such a bad thing to be but I don’t agree with that. Naïve can get you in a truckload of trouble.
This issue comes at a good time for me. For a while now I have been arguing with myself about whether I should give free reign to Emma in regards to the books that she is reading. Up till now if there has been a book that has questionable content I have vetoed it. Even though for her fifteenth birthday I told her she could read whatever she wanted, I haven’t been able to fully abide by that gift. That is a hard one to live by when I remember all of the lewd books I read when I was a teenager. But after reading this chapter in Swallow’s book I am re-thinking of just how tight I want those strings to be. Maybe I need to step back even more. Man, is that ever hard!
Let me share some quotes from the book:
“…I read more and more books and, by exposure to many competing ideas and examples, I gained a more truthful understanding of the nature of love and life and relationships…” Pg. 19
“But I do suspect that Milton’s reaction to modern day anxieties over the likes of Harry Potter and Twilight might be something along the lines of a deep resigned sigh. Harry Potter and Bella the vampire lover came along well after my time, but in my day we had Stephen King and he has to be at least as bad as J.K.Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, what with all his blood-soaked, blood-soaking teenage girls and their raving, bible-quoting fundamentalist mothers; his decomposed pets coming back to life; his quaint, vampire-infested New England towns; and his evil-spirit possessed hotels, St. Bernards, cell phones, spacecrafts, and balloon-brandishing clowns. Stephen King’s novels and the like constituted the staple of my reading through my high school years. Indeed, it is largely because of those books that the love of reading cultivated by my mother in my early years didn’t dissipate, as it so often does once adolescence comes along and replaces the thrills of reading with other forms of thrill-making.” Pg.25
Read other Wednesday with Words posts at LadyDusk.