Listen to the falling rain, Listen to it fall, And with every drop of rain I can hear you call.” (Jose Feliciano)
Today, unusual for North Carolina, has been a grey day of ongoing gentle rain. It has made me think. To me rain has always equaled books. I don’t know if everyone who writes is a bookaholic but I am. Books sound a siren call I find hard to resist. As Stephen King said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
Since the first time I climbed the stairs to the library in my small hometown I thought I had crossed the portal into paradise. The majestic entrance opened to a children’s room on the right of the beautiful neo-classical building. I loved the promise of the library, the smell of the books, the reverent silence. I was hooked. Books instantly became an enchanted tour of different worlds, an exploration of fantasy and folklore, myths and mystery.
Once I finished all the fairy tales in our library I started on Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. Then it was on to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, with forays to Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. Black Beauty led me to The Black Stallion and Island Stallion series and they were mixed with Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland.
I could spend an entire rainy day or stormy winter weekend on my bed reading. Only my increasingly pressing appetite fueled by the smell of my mother’s pot roast would stir me come dinnertime to finally close the book and reenter the ordinary world. Even today once I start a book it’s hard to stop until I am done, even if I lose sleep to do it.
As I got older I found the classics, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, Les Miserable, while the book of the month club brought my mother (and second hand from her to me) The Riders of the Purple Sage, The Silver Chalice, Ten Little Indians, and The Scent of New Mown Hay. We went to the library every Friday, and I honestly became more incredulous at my joy there as I grew up and got to explore the stacks for adventure and intrigue. At the same time I often hit upon other treasures among my mother’s books. The Razor’s Edge and Gone With the Wind, with photos from the movie, stand out in my recollection.
As I typically did if I loved a writer I read all their books. I do to this day. It’s almost a compulsion to go from one book to the next, the authors and their characters as real as long term friends.
My favorite teacher in junior high, Mr. Lee, who I had for both seventh and eight grade English (he got promoted with my class!), kept a small personal lending library in the back of his room. If you finished your work (correctly) you could go to the comfy chair there and read. I set the land speed record on my work to get to go there, learning to be both fast and accurate as long as books were my reward. I don’t remember loving the books in the high school curriculum as much as my personal reading except The Old Man and The Sea and The Great Gadsby. But I loved the school library. Whenever I could I got a pass from study hall to go there.
Shakespeare and the Romantic and Victorian poets, Faulkner and Steinbeck didn’t connect for me until college, then I devoured them whether it was rain or shine. My university had several libraries, multiple stories of books, with study carousels where I could stay and study and read to my heart’s desire. Pivotal to me in those years were Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tokien. Their thoughts on living with deliberateness and transcendence and the importance of a call to a higher purpose shaped not only my world view but my life. Certainly they are the underpinnings of my novel.
I can’t quite imagine my life without books. They are my Alladin’s lamp or magic carpet that transport me away from the grey cloudy everyday. Whether its a book store or the library the magic has never diminished for me. The music of the rain fades with all awareness of my surroundings and I am immersed in new worlds, new people, new experiences.
“Listen to the falling rain, listen to the call…of writing and books. Let your imagination sweep you away past the clouds, beyond the shadows, into the brilliant sunlit lands.