Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reading's Corrective Grace

Spending the afternoon with Conversations with Texas Writers and drifting slowly through the myriad writers I have missed in the years when I was haunting fantasy shelves and trying to stumble over another Tolkien. It never occurred to me--because foolish is my path in life--to allow different interests in my life or to note the ones that flared as they passed. Visiting Aunt Basha's walk-up apartment and trying to balance on the edge of the sofa and not sink backwards while bringing my life, my toys and my books, into her living room rather than letting her living room sink into me epitomizes the kind of selfishness that pertained from my childhood on. On a summer day not much different from this one, my grandparents, my brother and I followed a stern older man dressed in a formal blue-jean ranchwear up to a place were we could see some petroglyphs on Paint Rock. I remember the distant scrawls and the man's disgust at "teenagers" who graffiti'd the rock. Indians and teenagers were both mythical to me at the time and the red forms that glowed up under the lip of the overhang didn't spark anything at all in me except for a longing to be something else--grown up, back in the air conditioning, away from the implied distrust of young people around old things. The book that I'm reading now works to correct that selfishness, to crack open that shell of shyness and silence and remind me that the generosity of writers, their time and their attention and their effort, is perhaps the closest that I'll come to that easy Southern society of counter conversations and fearless interest in others. In my opinion, it's a hallmark of grace and something that I'll take even at secondhand, even as a correction.

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