Because I came to reading late, struggling to un-code the alphabet symbols, I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘good’ reader. I love books, stories, prefer the written word to audio books. There’s something about the way the written word scribes onto the geography of the mind, building images in the mind’s eye, that is to me the best kind of alchemy. A great story, well told, is to me worth more than gold.
I’m 56 this year. I’ve been reading now for about 42, 44 years. Never without a book beside me. But when I said a day or so ago, in conversation to a friend, “I’m getting so much better at reading these days”, I was surprised when she laughed. I’m serious. Yes, I read quicker, except when a book like The Blue Fox by Sjon comes along and I stop and read aloud, even when I am alone ( which gains me curious looks of disdain from the cats). But that’s not what I meant. I guess it’s like anything else that you do. You give something time, and you learn to do it better. As it is with painting, so it is with reading, and also I hope, writing.
Now stories soak into my mind with such a power, find deeper resonance. I give time from each day to read in the way that others might meditate, go to a gym, run. My grandmother always thought reading was for lazy people. She had a phrase that stuck in my mind. “Them that reads books has dirty houses.”
How right she was, about me anyway. She saw reading as something that you did when everything else in the day was done, no more steps to polish with a donkeystone, hearths to black, washing to scrub. Different lives.
So, I’m getting much better at reading these days. Still learning. And just as well, as there are so many great writers out there waiting to be discovered.
Not getting any better at housework though.