What s/he said…first impressions
Recently, my friend Carrie Addington over at Book Dust asked, “where are all the readers?” And today, I read an article reporting that if you lose yourself in fiction rather than just reading it, research has found that you’re more likely to be empathetic.
Oh, empathetic is what I am? I thought I was just crazy.
From the moment I figured out phonetics and memorized a few sight words, I was hooked on fiction. I was hooked, but as a child I was picky. I rejected library books with the crumbs, dried boogers, and ink stains that less fastidious children often left behind.
My mother worried about my tendency to speak of book characters in such a familiar way that it was impossible to distinguish between say, Claudia Kishi a fictional character in The Baby-Sitters Club series and Joanna Stein in my 5th grade homeroom. Reassuring herself that I would grow out of that phase (okay, so that hasn’t quite happened yet), my mom decided that encouraging my reading habit was worth risking minor financial ruin and allowed me to order as many books off of the monthly Scholastic book club list as I wanted.
Not surprisingly, I wanted more books than my classmates. Where most of my friends were happily occupied with one or two books off of the list, I usually ended up ordering at least a boxful. I curated a library of loss, devouring books featuring fathers sidelined by cardiomyopathy, mothers riddled with cancer, and children abandoned in shopping mall parking lots.
Today, my choices are slightly more eclectic, but loss and family remain favorite themes. One of my favorite moments is opening a book and reading the first line of a story. It’s like the moment before right before you completely unwrap a present – the inevitable regret and mess of paper surrounding you at the end is still far away.
Despite my fervor, I’m often embarrassed when someone asks the question, “what are you reading?” I freeze up and forget all of the books that are cracked open and strewn around the reading spaces of my apartment. But, that’s not going to happen here.
In fact, here are some of the first lines from some of the books I find myself reading. And reading again.
So let me dish you this comedy about a family I knew when I was growing up.
-The Ice Storm, Rick Moody
Darlings! Welcome! And you must be Danielle?
-The Emperor’s Children, Claire Messud
So Carmen was married, just.
-carry the one, Carol Anshaw
It was June, 1933, one week after Commencement, when Kay Leiland Strong, Vassar ’33, the first of her class to run around the table at the Class Day dinner, was married to Harald Petersen, Reed ’27, in the chapel of St. George’s Church, P.E., Karl F. Reiland, Rector.
-The Group, Mary McCarthy
This is not a letter.
-This Is Not For You, Jane Rule
And before I go, let me ask, what are you reading? Oh, and if you see Claudia Kishi, tell her Stacey McGill is looking for her.
-Ara Tucker, 2013