I realized today that I have devoured oner seventy issues of James Robinson’s Starman in slightly over ten days. And it’s not like it’s the most brilliant comic I’ve ever read (that probably goes to Batman: Year One or Supreme: The Return). I just had to finish it.
The same thing happened when I started watching The Office. It’s not one of my favorite TV shows. I don’t even find it all that funny. But somehow I watched all seven seasons in two weeks. While I was in school.
Books and I have a long and contentious relationship. I love them. I have had some book characters living inside my head for years (I’m talking to you, Leo). Others I have obsessed over and pulled apart until I feel like I’m going stir crazy inside the plots.
On one hand, this is good. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Sherlock Holmes (the books, my dear), Harry Potter, Captain Picard, Victor Frankenstein, and a host of other more obscure characters with me.
The first time I read Sherlock Holmes I was twelve, and it was a hot, sticky summer with nothing to do. It was the first summer where all we neighborhood kids felt too grown up and too pretentious to play the pickup capture-the-flag games that we used to. It was only a two-minute walk to the local elementary school and I used to go there and sit hunched over on a swing and read until my neck hurt from bending.
The copy I have was my mother’s, a complete set of all the Holmes tales. It’s about as thick as a brick, with onion-skin paper and gold writing on a black cover. It smells like dust, and back then I would have to switch hands every few minutes, from the heaviness. I always liked Watson a little better than Holmes, but then again I think we were meant to.
I can tell you all this about a book, and yet I can’t remember the first time I held my baby sister, although I know it must have been around the same time.
Not my drawing by the way. But squee-worthy.
And oh, how happy I was when I discovered fanfic. If you’ve ever been to Fanfiction.net you know the wealth of stories on that site, and how they could let a girl happily explore for months. And for months I did, delving into gen, slash, cross-overs, and every other geeky slang-tern you can imagine from fluff to lemon. There are very few things that compare to three hour chunks spent reading piles of Justice League and comic book and Sherlock Holmes fanfic. I’ve posted more comments using the word “squee” than I ever imagined I would. To date, I’ve contributed 100,000 words of my own. I find it soothing, friendly, and instantly gratifying. Also, a little shameful. Incidentally, this is about the mix of feelings I’ve heard alcoholics describe.
I alway have a book with me. I love them. I read under the table even though I know damn well that it would do me good to actually listen in Statistics for once. When things get awkward or when I just don’t know anyone I pull it out. My books are my security blanket.
Once, at the very end of tenth grade, a boy told me that I talk like a book.
I am quiet. I do not talk like a normal person. I like symbolism, and metaphors, and discussions about politics and religion. Sometimes, I think I would be better off as a girl who didn’t fall in love with Italo Calvino but who could comfortably have a conversation on the telephone.
The summer when I devoured Holmes, I devoured it because I had nothing else. The only two books in the house I hadn’t finished were it and Little Women, and the only thing Little Women ever taught me was what kind of girl I do not want to be. That was the summer when my mother refused to take me to the library. She said she was afraid I was addicted to books. I think what she thought was that by not letting me get new books she could break the cocoon of the imaginary world I’d built around myself, so I’d be the type of girl to smile at strangers and make friends with a handshake. My mother, you see, was not that type of girl either, though my sister was. I think she wanted to show me the easy path, and I also think she knew she would fail.
She was partially right in her fears. I have never had as many friends as my sister–the social butterfly and easy talker–but I have had better friends. Deeper ones. I have friends who I have known for a third of my life, who I can truly tell anything, and who trust me the same.
I don’t trust anyone who says they don’t read.
I do not talk easily, but I do it well. I can appear stony and cold, but I am not quick to anger or rashness. I am judgmental, I admit; I don’t like girls with high voices who giggle too loudly and think too little, but I know myself enough to choose my friends wisely. If I lose friends, it isn’t over fights or betrayal, we simply grow apart. I am smart. On the ACT I beat the boy who was three years ahead in math because there are two languages sections.
I am obsessive, but I am not alone in that. An addiction to language and words and imagination is certainly better than heroin or cocaine or vodka. I value my mind too much to lose it.
I would rather be this person than another. I would rather know what its like to roll lines of poetry around in my mouth like fine wine than give it up for comfort in crowds. I do not like people, at least not the sort of people who smile too easily and too often. This odd sense of humor I possess is better than being able to laugh at Will Ferrell. I’m the type of girl to smell old books and rub my hands across the leather, the type who collects ’50′s and ’60′s science fiction dime novels and stacks of comic books.
I like my life. I like being one of those odd little library girls. I am not the only one, I know. Perhaps this addiction of mine is not strictly healthy, but I would rather have it than not.