Wednesday, January 17, 2007

let's share wubbies

Monday's post about the SPFF's actually started out as an exploration of the different literary genres to which people become especially attached, and why. It's a phenomenon that calls to mind that scene in the movie Mr. Mom, where Michael Keaton has a man-to man talk with his son (who is no longer a toddler) in an attempt to persuade the boy to give up his security blanket. "It's time to give up the wubby," Keaton says soberly.

The older I get, the more I notice two seemingly paradoxical things about the reading habits of myself and others. The first is that most of us are much more widely read than we used to be (i.e. in high school, college, etc). This is to be expected, I suppose. The longer you live, the more subjects you're exposed to and the more people you meet: Interests are piqued, authors are recommended, new worlds of the written word are discovered (and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on...).

On the other hand, I've noticed that the older I get the more deeply set my literary preferences (and those of many people I know) become. I'm willing to read pretty much anything, especially if it comes recommended by someone who views reading as one of those things that's important for a full life - you know, like oxygen. BUT, if you come to my house and peruse my bookshelves, the jig'll be up. You're going to see my prejudices undeniably on display: John Steinbeck, Charles Frazier, Ron Hansen (who was one of my college teachers - how lucky was I?), Lorrie Moore, Cormac McCarthy, Laura Hillenbrand, Wallace Stegner (whose son, Page, was another one of my teachers at UCSC. Doubly blessed there, I know), Marilynne Robinson...and the list goes on. It's a long list, but there's a definite pattern: I hunger and thirst for books (primarily literary fiction) that tell me something I didn't already know about this world I find myself living in (and the world my parents and grandparents have inhabited as well).

I can't pinpoint the exact book with which this addiction began. Was it Where the Red Fern Grows when I was in grade school - the first book to ever break my heart so thoroughly that I can barely pick up a copy of it now without tears springing to my eyes? Or did my wubby attachment begin later on, with To Kill a Mockingbird or Miller's The Crucible (thank you Mrs. Girton, you rockin' high school English teacher who was way under-appreciated by 99% of your students)? Whenever it started, my appetite for literary fiction has snowballed over the years - to the point where a good book does sometimes feel as necessary as oxygen to me, and a disappointing one sometimes feels like being at the bottom of the ocean and discovering that your Scuba tank is empty.

Truly, my wubby is a many splendored thing: It is understanding what it means to cherish, nurture and eventually lose two coon hounds. It is uncovering the dreadfully unjust nature of witch hunts (real or symbolic), and finding out what standing up for those who are "different" and defenseless looks like. It is a portrait of gritty true love able to transcend even death.

So, what does your wubby look like, and when did your preference for a particular genre (fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, true crime, chick lit, board books, etc.) begin? Via the cool map at the bottom of the page, I know there are people all over the world who have checked out this blog, even if it's only for a millisecond - long enough to go, "This isn't the site I was looking for! Curse you, Google!" So, I want to hear from anyone and everyone - that includes you, citizen of Vladivostok. I know they have wubbies even in Siberia.

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