Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fifteen things you should know about me and books: PART THE FIRST

I've been tagged by Briana, and we like to humor those folks who are about to spawn. For the SEVENTH TIME. Oh yes we do.

1. The first book I ever succeeded in reading by myself, cover-to-cover, was titled: WHAT IS THAT? (I was five and a half at the time. I know this makes me a literary late-bloomer compared to a lot of folks.)

The entire plot of the book involved a hatchling bird (note to self: see if Briana has spawned yet) hopping about, asking the question, "What is that?" regarding every object he stumbles across. I followed my mother around the house for an entire weekend, holding the book, "reading" to her.




On Sunday evening, sometime between dinner and bathtime, the book MYSTERIOUSLY went missing and was never seen again. I was devastated. However, in its place, an entire collection of Golden Books soon appeared.

* * *

2. When I was eight -- having made up for lost time -- I read George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM. To say I didn't understand it is a bit of an understatement. When I started asking questions at the dinner table, my parents got the idea that maybe the book wasn't appropriate. Neither of them had ever heard of Orwell, and had assumed I was reading about...you know...animals. On a farm. Which I was.
* * *

3. Shortly thereafter, my mother introduced me to Nancy Drew. I liked Nancy. I didn't love her. She was a little too...well-behaved. Which is not to say that I was not a well-behaved child -- I was. Extremely. Studious and polite and quiet and ladylike and mature for my age in a way that wasn't TOO threatening to the adults around me. But when you're already that way, who wants to READ about some OTHER chick who ALSO does everything right? PLUS...pretty. Which I WASN'T. Nancy got old fast. Luckily, by the time I was nine, I discovered...
* * *

4. ...Harlequin Romance! Old ones, from the early seventies, and quite chaste. "Punishing kisses" -- no tongue -- were about as raunchy as they got. And the girls were still pretty goody-goody, but at least they made mistakes once in a while. But the HEROES. Hot DAMN! I couldn't wait to be out on my own, so I could meet captains of industry, doctors who owned their own hospitals, princes of small-but-wealthy countries...and all of them just waiting for young, marginally-educated, attractive-in-a-fresh-and-virginal-way ME!!
* * *

5. When I was ten, GONE WITH THE WIND aired on television for the first time. I was...entranced. Enraptured. Moved beyond my ability to express it. My mother, bless her, recognized the stars in my eyes and produced her old, worn hardback copy of Margaret Mitchell's novel. And Oh. My. God.

I lost myself in that book in a way I've never lost myself before or since. I lived in it for months. I dreamed of crinolines and soldiers dying of dysentery. I drew pictures of antebellum mansions and cotton fields. I wrote impassioned extra-credit fifth grade English essays on the evils of slavery compared and contrasted to the evils of Reconstruction. I developed a southern drawl.

In short, I lost my tiny mind.
* * *

6. In my quest to read other books set in the antebellum South, I found...ermmm...other books set in the antebellum South.




Thus began my study of smut on the page. As parental supervision of my reading material was fairly light at this point, my exploration was wide and varied. Wherever I found books of a questionable nature -- the bottom drawer of my father's dresser, the back of a bookshelf in my college-aged uncle's bedroom, the bottom of a box in my grandmother's attic -- there I conducted my investigations. I soon learned what fascinated me and what bored me silly. By the time I was twelve, the chaste Harlequins of my youth were relegated to a pile beneath my bed.

The books I was reading were all written with a masculine audience in mind. I won't call them pornography (apparently, my uncle, grandfather and father had somewhat finer taste in fiction than THAT) because each of them contained a fairly detailed plot and a male protagonist who DID things other than have sex.

Most of them tended toward the spy/thriller/suspense mode, with lots of disposable dames and broads who occasionally got whacked after they got laid, but sometimes didn't even have names. Misogynistic, yes. Porn? Hmmm...probably not. Colored my view of sex and relationships between the genders? I dunno, doc, whaddya think?

Of course, by this time, I'd also discovered that Harl's little category section didn't have a lock on the romance market. Rosemary Rogers, how DO you do?

To be continued...


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