To Read Like I was Fourteen Again

I’m two here I think, but you can see I’m planning on becoming a troubled nerd.

I hated middle-school with a burning passion. I have never been, before or since, that unhappy.

That unhappiness had an upside; I could read a book a day. The ability lasted for several years, say, a thousand books. I escaped into books, which were mostly science fiction and fantasy, but also some historical fiction, some literary fiction, some of that stuff blurs categories, and some non-fiction. Before middle-school I’d read comics, but I couldn’t buy them fast enough to keep me distracted from my daily misery as a 6th, 7th and 8th grader.

Forty years later, I find myself wanting to read like that again. And I can’t, or at least, I haven’ figured it out, yet. So I thought I’d list some of the reasons I read like a demone then, and think through some answers.

  1. I had three channels of network TV, and a blurry PBS, on a set I shared with at least two people. (We had two TVs for a family of four.)
  2. We had no video games.
  3. We had no VCR or way to see movies other than going to the theater.
  4. We had no second run theaters; you could only see the movies that were out at that moment.
  5. I hated all sports.
  6. I had yet to become interested in politics or acquired a newspaper habit.
  7. I had a handful of bookish friends who had other sedate pursuits (model building, drawing, role playing gaming). We hung out often, but there was no way to even talk to them after say, ten o’clock.
  8. Because we had one phone till I was in high school.

In short, what the hell else was there for me to do?

Don’t get me wrong, I watched plenty of TV. But there were blocks of time when there was nothing on the three channels I could even pretend to be interested in.

What the hell else was there to do?

Play cards and board games? Did that a little. Smoke pot drink beer and listen to vinyl and cassettes? Wouldn’t do that until I was older.

To summarize: It was easier to read a shitload, back then, because we had very very little else to do.

We roamed freely… through undeveloped land and construction sites and junkyards, climbing hills to hang out near water towers, and we went to lakes and played frisbee, a bit, my only sport, and we swam in pools and lakes, sure, a bit of that, a bit of travel, a bit of mall-wandering.

But books filled endless vistas of unstructured time, like water seeking a level, soaking into every nook and cranny, ever crevice.

To read like I was fourteen again I need to turn away from a world of video, from a new golden age of television, from the unwatched movies of the last century, of which there are literally thousands of classics, and ten thousand guilty pleasures, from gaming both casual and profound, from politics and news and social media and activism and the needs of a body which demands exercise to not hurt.

Tools which help.

  1. Social media blockers like Freedom.
  2. E-readers and e-reading apps on smart phones.
  3. Audiobooks to listen to while walking.
  4. On-line communities to talk about books with.

Finally, and sadly, perhaps the biggest incentive to read again, is this. A world I want to escape from.

Badly.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide
3 comments on “To Read Like I was Fourteen Again
  1. I still enjoy reading as much as the fourteen-year-old that I once was. It is harder to find time now, but I write less during my children’s school holidays, and that lets me read more.

    So far in 2017, I’ve read eight books: one literary book (an excellent one by Per Petterson), one short two-thousand-year-old book (“The Art of War”), and six fantasy books (one by Scott Lynch, one by Guy Gavriel Kay, and four by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.)

    The four books by Modesitt are all part of “The Saga of Recluce,” a lengthy fantasy series. I’ve read ten books in the series since last summer, plus 8 books in his Imager series. They feel like a guilty pleasure, just like watching TV might (except I’d rather read than watch TV). I am a junkie, an addict. I will read them standing in the grocery line, or while brushing my teeth…. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read this year, but it is the Modesitt ones, the least literary ones, that I crave. They are immersive, easy, escapist reading … provided you are okay with powerful white male heroes who kill a lot of people along the way.

    My family’s busy watching Dr. Who. I have a little time to myself. I think I can squeeze in a few more chapters of Modesitt….

  2. admin says:

    I believe my friend Rob reads him. Modesitt is very big I think. So you’re in good company.

    My brain exhausts itself trying to reverse engineer the process that created whatever I’m reading. I have hard time shutting it off; doing audio books helps.

  3. The reverse-engineering probably improves your writing, even though it lessens your enjoyment in reading.

    My brain is lazy, and does not reverse engineer the text. It also forgets what I read…. If I re-read a book a few years later, even major plot twists can surprise me anew.

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