Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Every man's memory is his private literature. --Aldous Huxley

The other day, I realized that when I’m reading a book, I like to find a spot to read it, and then stick with that spot for the duration of the book. I never consciously think to do it. And I don’t know that I’ve been doing it for very long. But I do enjoy looking at the books on my shelves and being reminded of the places where I read them…

I started reading The Jungle while I was sitting at jury duty on a gorgeous spring day, and I read it for hours and hours (obviously; I was at jury duty.). I was completely absorbed by that book, and I remember thinking how awesome I thought jury duty was, because all I did was take a day off work, sit, and read a book all day. What’s not to like about jury duty, right?!

The bulk of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was read at Corner Bakery off El Toro Road. I always sat in one of their green booths, ate harvest chicken salads, and underlined passages I thought were great (there were a lot). Come to think of it, I haven’t had a harvest chicken salad since I finished the book…

I remember reading much of The Three Musketeers while I was taking a train from Frankfurt to Ulm, in southern Germany in the summer of 2004. I remember being stressed out because I was nervous I’d fall asleep and miss my stop in Ulm. And I was trying to keep my face close to the cracked window because the air in the car of the train was thick with cigarette smoke.

Frankenstein was read between classes at UCI at a Togo’s in Irvine, near the campus. One day I sat there for probably four hours, completely lost in the story, waiting for an evening art history class with my pretentious professor who always wore black (and oh, who I loved), and getting cold from sitting in the shade outside in the late fall weather.

I literally couldn’t put Into the Wild down when I brought it to Bagels and Brew, not even to eat my lunch. The loud El Toro seniors sitting at the table next to me often glanced at me (yes, girls, I noticed), probably not used to seeing someone shaking her head in suspense or laughing out loud while reading a book.

Most of Lolita was read at the Staybridge Inn off Bake Parkway when my family had to stay there for two nights because our house was getting fumigated. While the rest of my family went to sleep in our rooms, I stayed up late out in the lobby, sitting on a couch in a corner, reading and sucking on Junior Mints and watching weary businessmen check into the hotel late at night.

I remember reading Pride and Prejudice in my room at my parents’ house on the Oregon coast…I have a pretty comforter with flowers on it, and the walls of the room are white and simple. It just feels and smells Jane Austeny there. I can remember the smell right now…it smells like newness and possibilities. The summer after that when I was back there, I read Mansfield Park. I love reading Austen in that room…

It's almost magical how the glance of a book on my shelf brings back these memories and the stories that are precious to me.


Julie Hibbard said...

You are a brilliant writer. I love this!!

Jessica said...

Great post! I'm going to ask everyone over x-mas WHERE they read their favorite books.

My email: jbzelda@yahoo.com

Let's exchange addresses there as I don't think either of us should post our address on the internet!

Have a great holiday!