Welcome Matt: Rediscovering books

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 
By Matt Krueger mkrueger@batavianews.com

There was a time in college when I was reading two books a week. And we’re not talking about Dr. Seuss tongue-twisters, or breezy children’s literature. I’m talking about thick, daunting classics like “Moby Dick,” “Song of Hiawatha,” and “Crime and Punishment.”

You see, that is the price for enrolling in multiple upper-level literature classes in one semester. I don’t recommend it, unless you read as quickly as an escaped prisoner runs. Otherwise, sleep becomes a novelty as rare as a boisterous librarian.

It burned me out. Reading became a chore, rather than a relaxing release. It helped lead me to switching my studies from literature to journalism. And in the years that followed, the bulk of my reading consisted of newspaper and magazine articles. The occasional novel fell into the reading list — I read the Harry Potter series to find out what the heck my nephew was talking about. But they were few. And they took weeks, sometimes months, to finish.

I just didn’t have the attention span for reading anymore. I became part of the instant gratification generation. If I couldn’t finish the story in one sitting, I didn’t take the time.

Yeah, I was dumb.

I had forgotten how exhilarating it was to leap into a book, to submerge myself in the twisting current of metaphor and personification, to replace the bombastic barrage of simultaneous media with a focused attention on just one simple story.

What re-plotted my course was “A Tale for Three Counties.”

Sure, this may sound like I’m shilling for the community reading project that The Daily News helped launch more than a decade ago. But I wasn’t involved with its creation. I didn’t read the books or meet the authors in the first 11 years. It wasn’t until Karen Thompson Walker came to town last week to discuss her bestseller “The Age of Miracles” that I re-discovered the joy found resting on the pages of a good book.

More succinctly, reading “The Age of Miracles” made me want to read more.

I had known for months that the author would be coming to Batavia to discuss her debut novel and answer the many intricate questions interested readers would pose. But I still held off actually reading the book until the week before Thompson Walker’s arrival. My wife finished the tale of Julia and her chronicling of Earth’s approaching apocalypse before I did. She blazed through the novel in one day.

The book, one of 50 considered by the “Tale” committee for the 2014 selection, is a quick read and a unique story. Years removed from deeply engaging in anything other than baseball box scores and snarky entertainment columns, I plunged in “Age.” I visualized Julia’s neighborhood with the pot-growing hippies across the street and her father’s lover on the other end of her telescope. I waited for the 12-year-old Julia to finally catch the attention of her crush, Seth, and I desperately wanted to see that jerk Darryl get some comeuppance for humiliatingly showing everyone at the bus stop that Julia wasn’t wearing a bra. He deserved a thunder punch right on the chin for that.

Several days removed from finishing the story, I still ponder it’s open ending and what might have happened to all of those characters in an ever-increasingly decaying world. That’s the sign of a good book: It makes you think.

I now find myself scanning the bookshelves at home, scouring for my next escape. It feels like I have re-connected with an old friend. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s “Tale” weekend. May it be as enlightening as this one was.

(Lifestyles Editor Matt Krueger writes the weekly “Welcome Matt” column about his introduction to the Genesee-Wyoming-Orleans region. It appears each Thursday in the Genescene.)

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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