For as long as I can recall being alive [which is quite a while, and sometimes feels like an entire lifetime] I have loved reading.
I differentiate between those two words -- reading, and books.
They are related, but distinct, loves.
Many people involve themselves in the act of reading -- but do not have a proper lust for books.
Others acquire books, and never read them.
A while back now, a good friend bought a mansion and asked me if I knew where he could purchase a pile of classic-type books so that it would lend his estate the appearance of being owned by a connoisseur of literature.
Many people don't have the time to read the stuff, but want it around.
I am rather hard-core about both reading and books. I make time and expend energy and money, for both. I would feel my life to be just this side of not-worth-living if I became too busy to pursue my "leisure" reading.
Tonight I am wondering though -- how much of this passion is innate?
Recently, a co-worker asked me when it was that I realized I could not live a happy life without a book in front of me. And the truth is -- I had to realize that in my case, the passion for reading was pretty much always there.
When I was a kid -- basically as soon as I learned what printed words were trying to do -- I was fascinated by their power. My discovery of typeface was like seeing God.
Immediately, when I understood the concept of what a typewriter could accomplish, I began typing recipe cards for my mother. Even before I could read what I was typing, I was typing -- identifying each individual printed letter with the key on dad's ancient Olivetti.
In Grade 2 of elementary school my mother showed my teacher a listing of books I had read that year, and Mrs. Okrainetz [she rode to school on a broom] did not believe I was telling the truth. I devoured the works of Enid Blyton, and even several volumes of non-fiction. I recall crying in a store [I could not have been more than nine or ten years old] until my mother bought me The Gulag Archipelago.
And yet -- even though I always was a reader -- I point to a time in college, when I had some free time after exams were over. I wandered in a Mall and picked up a discount copy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy.
As I sat in my dorm-room and devoured that book, something went crazy inside of me, and I knew that I would never be the same. I had reached some sort of higher level of addiction.
Unending, incurable and insatiable.
And so this is how I answered my co-worker. I blamed Hardy.
I blame Tess.