Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reeling and Writhing

I've posted before about my early reading. My parents were both in college when I was born, and thus there were lots of books in use, and I wanted to join in the fun.

My mom taught me how, and I remember very clearly the "aha" moment, sitting on my bed with a cloth copy of "Baby Mother Goose," when all the black marks coalesced and I began to read. I distinctly recall that it was a cloudy day and that the sun chose that moment to break through, sending a shaft of light onto the bedspread. Just like in the movies, though I don't think anyone's ever made a movie about reading. I was two.

By the time I was four I was writing poems and little stories, and a 20-page paper on Israel (done for the school for gifted children I attended, about which I'll write more at some point), handwritten in an ungainly scrawl that sadly has not improved all that much over the years. That's why I took to the typewriter by age ten, and have written almost exclusively on keyboards ever since.

I'm lost without something to read, and if I haven't written anything for a while, my fingers start to itch. As a Jewess, I'm a member of the People of the Book, but it goes beyond that - written words define my world, whether I'm reading or writing them.

Post title from Alice in Wonderland, wherein the Mock Turtle discusses what he studied in school: "Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision." When I was a child, we had a first-edition replica, with the John Tenniel illustrations, and I still recall the plastic slipcover, the texture of the pale blue cover, and the delicious way the heavy pages smelled. It's a book about the magic of reading and the imagination (Alice falls asleep while reading, then has her adventures), as well as more famously a logic puzzle, and I like to think that it shaped me.

"What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations!" Plenty, it turns out.

(Illustration found at The Victorian Web.)

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