I fell in love with reading before I had even learned how to do it. Like most babies, I enjoyed being read to. I even memorized my favorite stories to the point where people who didn’t know better thought I was reading – because I remembered exactly when to turn the pages! And my love for reading never faded with age.
Early in my childhood, my mom established the helpful habit of regular trips to the library. Because she also loves to read, she would venture off to the popular fiction section, and I would head over to the kids/young adult section. I loved mysteries at first. Eventually I moved on to the Judy-Blume-type books. I remember the book Go Ask Alice (by Anonymous) had a profound effect on me. People make fun of me when I say that because they view it as a cheesy “don’t do drugs” book. But it worked on me. I was never interested in drugs anyway. But the visuals from that story painted a nauseating enough picture to permanently discourage me from going down that road.
As I got older, I fell in love with classic literature. When I’d go to bookstores (remember those?) I’d always go straight to the Literature section. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly. I just wanted to be told a great story, but I wanted to have to work for it a little bit. I wanted the language itself to speak to me. I wanted the humor to be sarcastic and subtle. I wanted any romance involved to be oblique, hinted about, not graphic and obvious. The first author I became attached to was Charles Dickens.
I don’t remember which of his novels I read first. But I remember Oliver Twist and Great Expectations being the most memorable ones for me. Dickens was a great entry-level literary fiction author for me because, though he is considered “literary” now, his novels were received as popular fiction in his day. I loved the humor in his novels, the way he makes fun of his characters in a loving way, and the cartoonishness of his villains. Beyond that, he’s able to inject social commentary without being self-righteous or preachy.
The social justice aspect of his novels combined with great writing and great story-telling make him my favorite author. I never knew much about him personally, so the above YouTube video was informative for me. I identify with him in many ways. I know what struggle is. I am always on the side of the underdog. I believe the arts should do something beyond entertain. They should inform the reader in some way, make him/her better off, inspired, open to changing societal ills. I’ve always loved the old morality plays for that reason. Yes, they are simplistic, but they are powerful in that they entertain as well as deliver a message.
So I hope to do the same with my writing! In fact, learning about Dickens has inspired me to scrap the story I was working on and start something that has a deeper meaning for me. Wish me luck!
Happy Reading and Writing,