Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Reading Life

Heard an NPR interview this morning with Southern mega-novelist Pat Conroy celebrating the release of his new book, My Reading Life, in which he talks about the books and writers that shaped his reading and writing life. He gives priority credit to his mother who read countless books to him at bedtime during his young years, especially novels—e.g., Gone with the Wind when he was five.

My father's mother was a book-lover and reader, as was my father. My mother was a teacher before she married and drove us continually to the Carnegie Library in my Alabama hometown to check out books to read—I remember paging through the Louis L'Amour western frontier novels prior to sixth grade. I was raised in a house filled with books, as were my children, and their five separate abodes today contain their own collections. That's not uncommon, of course. The farmhouse I've been looking at in Ashe County has a room dubbed "the library" with tall bookcases filled with books. Good for the owners.

I recently re-watched the three parts of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. My son, Daniel, commented that he is reading through the 900+-page one-volume edition at present with his two daughters (9 and 7) -- an inviolable nighttime pattern in their house that has already taken them through The Chronicles of Narnia, numerous George MacDonald fantasies, and others. The great thing about reading is that the author's story gets re-created and re-set in as many different ways as there are readers and listeners. Every reader's imagination has free reign to imagine what a Tolkien Ringwraith actually looks like. For me, I'll have Peter Jackson's version forever in my mind. And a great one it is. But mine (or yours) could actually be as good or better. And likely more satisfying since we saw it in our own mind's eye.

In some writing lately I was reminded of the difference between Greek logos (word, idea, concept) and rhema (saying, specific word). The Bible is the written logos of God, Jesus the living logos, while rhema is that word-in-time that jumps off the page and quickens the heart and enlightens the eyes—the "sword of the Spirit which is the word [rhema] of God" (Ephesians 6:17).

So, good on all the parents who read to their, and other, children the logoi, God's and others, setting the stage for rhemata to jump from page to person, thus creating a reading life.

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