Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There Are Two Stories In Every Book

If you're reading this, you already know how it feels to be absorbed in a great book. You love being transported to a cool world filled with magic, mystery, romance and adventure. You read for many reasons: to have vicarious experiences, to escape the stress of school or work, to care about something.

I'm so grateful I got the reading bug early on. I remember having this aha moment reading one of Anne McCafferey's Dragonriders books, when I said to myself, "Oh my god! This isn't a fantasy novel, it's actually science fiction!"

My mind was blown.

I remember getting teary-eyed reading The Hunger Games when Katniss sings to Rue. Just thinking about it still gives me a little lump in my throat. 

But you know what I remember more than the stories themselves? I remember where I was when I read them. For the Dragonriders it was summer of 1982 or '83, in my bedroom, windows open, the sounds crickets filling the air with their endless white noise. We didn't have AC, so to cut the humid heat I relied on a little oscillating fan. The thing was filthy with dust. At the end of each swing of its head, gears in its body clicked a few times before it figured out it was time to go the other way.

Next to my bed was a paper cup filled with ice water, a digital alarm clock, a bunch of guitar picks, and a reading lamp. Each night, I'd lie there reading, immersed in the fantastic world that sprang from Ms. McCafferey's mind.

There's one more detail. The smell of the pages. Actually all those paperbacks had that smell, didn't they?

I tried to start The Hunger Games at least three times before it took. I struggled with the present tense, the full immersion in a world with no explanation. The fact is, I always hate starting books. I'm never really into them until I've gotten forty or fifty pages in. But I made myself get that far, and once I did ... well, I just kept reading until the end.

And where was I when I read it? In bed, of course. But there was no oscillating fan, no crickets, no sweltering heat. I have my own house now. I had the cup of water, the digital alarm clock and the guitar picks. But I have AC now, and that old fan was tossed in the dumpster long ago. The only clicking came from the buttons on my Kindle. 

There are so many other books I remember in this way. I could go on and on. Maybe it's why I tend not to re-read books. Because I'm afraid I'll overwrite an already perfect memory.

For me, there are two stories in every book, and I remember them both.

Eric is the author of Undermountain, available from these ebook retailers.

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