I’ve had a small reading slump in February that has kept my already low posting rate to a minimum. There is something about the cold and the rain that makes my mind wonder and doesn’t allow me to sit down and read or write -I believe Shamans of old called it laziness-. It has also been a while since I’ve done an anthology post, so I’ll take this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by welcoming you (whoever that is) to the final edition of my Anthology: Places where I enjoy reading. It seems fitting that I end this series with what has been the most important place (technically places) to develop my love for literature: the public transportation system of Madrid. Before I get to it, let’s take a walk down memory lane to the college years.
It is no secret that going to college and studying a career that I actively hated was soul-killing. I tried really hard to endure it and just to get it done but in the last years I was nearly broken; going zombified to classes that I didn’t really care for and talking to classmates that, although really nice people, didn’t have much in common with me (I really mean this in the prickless way possible). This ordeal was made even worse by the two to three hours I had to spend taking the underground or the bus to get to my classes; a task that hadn’t really been that gruelling at the beginning but by the end became unbearable.
During the first years I was quick to start a conversation on the bus with anyone I recognized from my classes and, if I didn’t see any familiar faces, I always cranked up my CD player and I enjoyed the trip listening to Pantera, Testament, Annihilator or whatever metal band discovered in the old Megadeth forums where I first started posting back in 2004 (Random Trivia: extra metal points for listening to that in a CD-player that did not read mp3 files). However, around the four year mark I had grown a bit weary of listening to music (in general, not just metal) and had begun to take mostly the underground which took a bit longer, but gave me the chance to sit down during the entire trip, and allowed me some much needed rest time between the internship I was doing during the morning and the classes that took place during the evening and that had increased my travelling time up to five hours every day.
At the same I had begun to write less-and-less at the Megadeth forum for obvious lack of time and due to the unfortunate decision taken by the site administrators to moderate the section Total Anarchy – the irony is not lost upon me – where I usually posted. Although this ultimately proved to be a fatal blow to the site (years later they closed the section and ultimately watered down the board to become simple fan-service portal) before all the moderating started there was one thread that I had made a habit of visiting titled: “Post what you are reading”. In this thread I diligently informed the people of the Internet what I was going to read and what I had finished reading usually followed by insightful comments that completely shattered previous conceptions on the work such as:
It was a pretty good book.
I really enjoyed it.
Editorial note: This wonderfully stupid habit was an embryonic version of this blog for obvious reasons to anyone that has bothered to read more than two posts. After all this years I still make a note of the exact day when I finish reading a book followed, hopefully, by better insights.
I can’t help a little smile as I type this; reminiscing the sensations those firsts books had on me: the first three Dune books by Frank Herbert that I decided to read because when I was a kid I was fascinated with the videogame, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson which I got at http://www.play.com because it had a special discount due to the popularity of the Will Smith movie, The Foundation Trilogy and the two follow-up novels recommended to me by my brother and that, as previously mentioned, made fall in love with numbers, statistics and game theory, Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land a book that I didn’t really grok but that accompanied me on the toughest of times when I had just begun the internship, American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis and the extreme reaction of its main character to a world he lives in but hates. I’m probably skipping quite a few, but there is one book that stands out above all and that really changed everything for me: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.
I want to be careful with what I say because down the line I’d like to go back to this book and make a proper review about it considering Catch 22 is my favourite book. Although I’ve only read it once, this is the novel that changed it all for me.
The Megadeth boards had never failed to recommend a book that I didn’t like and Heller’s novel was a frequent mention and was always accompanied by praise. Despite all the accolades I didn’t know much about it except for the fact that it was a war novel (a genre that up until that point I had only laterally approached with Johnny Got His Gun), that is why I found very surprising that my mom had an old paperback copy that she had purchased back on the 21st of July 1974 – she doesn’t recall where or why she bought it but I know that she does not like reading about war –. In the fall of 2009 I became enthralled by this book and found out something that I hope I still want to do when I’m old(er): Thanks to this book I knew that I wanted to write.
Heller’s novel was smart, funny, clever, insightful, weird and wonderful. It changed something deep inside me and allowed me to discover the amazing power of words, and the freedom they could give me whenever I wanted to express who I am, what I felt or whatever ideas I could conjure up no matter how crazy and farfetched they could seem.
This novel and the books I mentioned played a huge part in my life. They allowed me to escape a very unappealing reality and introduced me to ideas, characters, stories and worlds that managed to stimulate me out of the numbness created by the choices I had made and that were making me really unhappy. They also made me love reading on my trips. I didn’t care if I was on the bus at 20:00 in the middle of winter or if I had to take wake up forty minutes earlier and spend an hour using the underground, I cherished every precious trip where I could open a book and disappear into another world.
It is only as I write these words that I realize that I feel in love with literature as a product of circumstance and necessity. I had almost forgotten how lonely I felt, and how unbearable everything that surrounded me and everything that was going to be my future seemed; and yet word by word, page by page, chapter by chapter, book by book and trip by trip I found a way to construct a narrative that makes sense of my life, and for that I am grateful.
Editorial note: This post ends “Anthology: Place Where I Enjoy Reading”. Thank you to anyone that has read them, here you can find the links to the other posts on this anthology. As an incentive to keep writing next on my to-do list and partially thanks to this last post, there is a new section coming about my favourite books that I will cover both childhood and adulthood. Until then, thanks for reading.