Jan. 30th, 2009

floweranza: (matsujun red tie.)
(Written for Interpretation of Lit., University of Iowa. January.)

Autobiography of (an Airhead) a Reader

The textures and smells of books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even now, the desk in my dorm room has a haphazard array of novels lined up behind my laptop, external drive, and copious snakes of wires; in fact, there are so many books that my friends often good-naturedly throw jibes at me. While my exposure to reading may have begun with books in the Russian language, I don’t believe my exhilaration at reading has diminished from the transition of preferred languages in my head. For me, reading remains a matter-of-fact joy and way of connecting myself to all the different walks of people who have ever lived in this world.

If a book were to be written about my own life, it would doubtlessly be a bore. However, one of the main themes would undoubtedly be reading. From the first page to the current day, it would be chock-full of such phrases as, “Ah, once again she has flipped open a book, gently running a finger down the crease…” or, “Ah, she has given up on giving precedence to homework over a good story again, the idiot.” Self-teasing aside, it seems that while children often blame parents for their own foolhardy actions, my parents really are at fault. Like me, they were and are voracious readers. I grew up munching at a kitchen table with people whose noses were constantly stuck in white pages, one hand set to page-turning and the other to cutlery. Due to such memories, it’s hard for me to define exactly what reading means to me. Like breathing or walking, it has remained an essential constant. And that is something I can only deeply thank my parents for. While such absent-minded parents (who sometimes ended up not hearing me in favor of an engaging read) were often times clumsy with their first child, they gave me the dearest gift of all: the ability to enjoy expression in written form, a true recitation of human thought and existence.

While I laud my parents an awful lot, I sometimes look back at a choice selection of their ideas and wonder what the hell they were thinking. When I was young, my mother was insanely infatuated with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. She insisted that I, who wasn’t even out of elementary school, should read it! My mother’s enthusiasm hasn’t changed since then, except I am now considerably more mature (from my point of view) and can better appreciate the things she recommends me. In any case, my young mind greedily took it as a challenge, the biggest book I had read so far. Armed with a dictionary and scooter-accident band-aids, I still didn’t understand everything (how could I, possibly?), but it was a good experience. I look back fondly upon Jane Eyre, having reread it in more recent years, but my happy memories of struggling through it as a child remain and serve to motivate me. Another category of written work that inspires me is, oddly enough, stories written by fans. It is a category that is derided and misunderstood by many. Some people say that writing other people’s characters is a gimmick and unoriginal, that fanfiction is a weak facsimile of the real thing. It is my personal opinion that fanfiction is valid and, indeed, very difficult. Writing characters not your own requires faithfulness and skill, and crafting a story with such understanding of personality defines the ability of an author. Over the years, I have read so many amazing things written by amateurs that I can easily say they all inspired me. Just because a work has not been published doesn’t mean it is less valid; it can still be just as skillful, beautiful, and as worthy reading as any best seller from the New York Times. Reading has given me an appreciation of the published and unpublished, the refined and unrefined, and I think it has also given me a greater understanding of the beauty humans are capable of.


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May 2009

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