Entries in nostalgia (1)

Tuesday
May012018

Is it Just Me?

I was speaking with a young lady friend of mine over the weekend and during the course of our conversation I mentioned a historical novel that I had just finished reading and how much I had enjoyed it.  After one or two sentences about the book I could see her eyes glassing over and I stopped talking.  She told me that she enjoyed writing, but had no use for reading anything other than school assignments.  I’ve noticed that this is a trend, one that worries me.

              Some kids remark that reading takes too much time; watch the movie and be done with it!  Many years ago another young lady of my acquaintance chose to watch the movie, The Good Earth rather than read the relatively short Pearl S. Buck novel.  She watched the 1937 black and white adaptation starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer and with all the confidence in the world took a test on it the next day in her literature class.  Can you guess what her grade was?  The movie is excellent but she missed out on such a wonderful story bypassing the original work.

                 I grew up on Chicago’s south side.  We didn’t own a car and, for a long time, didn’t have a television.  When we finally got one, there were only two channels available and after a certain hour, no shows were broadcast until the next evening.  This is not a call for sympathy but just stating reality.  We even had a two-party line for our rotary dial desk phone.  The radio was on quite a bit with programming that brought a variety of news and entertainment. As a family, there were those occasions when we actually would discuss a particular show that we had just listened to.

                No, I’m not a nerd but I was an early reader and would read everything I could.  I found some books left in the basement of a house we had moved into and they kick-started my passion for reading.  Of course I played outside, riding my bike and playing catch with my dog, but short winter days and times when staying indoors was a much better idea were perfect for curling up with a story that took me elsewhere.  Speaking of elsewhere, Robin Hood was first read under the covers, aided by a flashlight and I was introduced to Shakespeare sitting on top of a ladder while my father painted the living room walls.          

                My dad would walk me to our neighborhood library which was more than a mile each way.  The library was located in a large park which had ball fields.  He would take me close to the entrance to the library and find a baseball or soccer game to watch.  Keeping a close eye on the big clock on the wall, I knew I was good for an hour or two.

                The library was big, with dark wood on the walls and what seemed to me, miles of bookshelves waiting to be explored.  I would first find books that I wanted to take home – volumes from the Black Stallion series, Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red series and books by Jack London.  I read biographies about people doing extraordinary things with their lives and I even read poetry.  After I had my “take home stack,” I would continue to wander around pulling out books at random just to take a look to maybe consider them for a future trip home with me. 

                At the predetermined time, I checked out my books and walked toward the ball fields to             meet up with my dad.  If a game was still in progress, we sometimes stayed there, he watching the game, me continuing reading.  Eventually we took the long walk back home, my arms hugging the books close.  Today, I continue to wander through our local library, wondering what I’ll find to bring home with me. 

                I worry that so many young people today have lost both their patience and their imagination.  Visual entertainment is thrust upon them 24/7; the world can be seen and “facts” from both reliable and questionable sources, given without them moving out of their chair.   Stories that authors wrote and rewrote until it met with their expectations, sweated over, characters defined… Fast forward and delete are instantly available.  Change and replace… move on.

      Maybe this is just progress, maybe I’m just too old to understand, but when I close my eyes I can still see the Black stallion running down the sandy beach the way I imagined the scene, not the way a movie director filmed it.

Sharon