Widdershins. Gargoyle. Amalgamation. Anathema. Bacchanalia. These words sing in my ears, a song that doesn’t have to make sense to be beautiful.
There are a few exceptions, of course. I dislike reading the words pate, or dais, or even amalgam even though I love its other forms. They just don’t roll off my tongue, and when I’m reading and come across one of them my brain stumbles out of the story for a minute. For some reason I just can’t decide how I want to hear them in my head and so three or four different pronunciations bounce through and I still can’t settle on one I like. Since my vocabulary comes largely from reading as opposed to intelligent conversation out loud with other human beings, there have been quite a few laughable moments in my life where I know the definition and spelling of a word but attempted pronunciations have fallen well short of the mark.
I have been a reader of tales for as long as I can remember. Even before I started kindergarten I got fed up waiting for other people to find the time to read to me, so I learned to do for myself. Any kind of story would do, I didn’t start to become even a slightly discerning reader until I was older. During summer vacation after 6th grade I read Gone with the Wind and Bonfire of the Vanities just because I was on a kick to read the fattest books I could find on the library shelves. I don’t really remember either one, I just remember being the only 12 year old in our family trying to finish a hundred pages before hopping on my bike or going to play putt-putt. I read my mom’s ‘grown up lady’ books just because they were there and got an education that I didn’t understand for 10 more years. I read a few true crime books from my cousin’s bookshelf and didn’t talk to strangers for weeks. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on.
Then I found Stephen King, and Tolkien, and Asimov. One delved into the horrors to be found right here in my own world, around the corner just out of sight in my darkened bedroom, and in the most normal heart of a human being. One took me straight out of my world and into his, a panorama of magical creatures and legend and alternate history, with dragons and hobbits and Smeagel’s. One took me to a world so like our own had we followed an accelerated evolutionary course. I cannot explain how breathtakingly exciting it was, that there truly was magic in the world. How could I see it any other way? Obviously these things existed, I could see them, I could dream them and understand them in a way that I usually could not see and understand the physical world I lived in.
Then came Gaiman, and Pratchett, and Adams and I went wonky for the Brits. These three authors were such a huge influence on my brain that they inspired some of my tattoos, and I’m not even done yet. At some point I plan to get a half sleeve depicting The Discworld, and I really can’t wait.
I love words, but I also love books. I have yet to jump on the e-reader bandwagon. I like the heft of a book in my hands, I like feeling the embossed cover under my fingers while I read. I like the musty smell of the pages of the books I find at the second hand shop and the crisp slightly chemical reaction smell of the ink of the books that I buy hot off the presses. I like starring the words that I don’t know and writing their definitions in the margins, and folding down the pages, underlining or highlighting my favorite passages. I like marking pages with references I don’t understand with post it notes, so I can go back and figure out what the hell they were talking about. I like closing the book when I’m done, and just holding onto it for a moment because I’m not ready to let go of their story yet. I finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern a couple weeks ago, and it was probably a good ten minutes before I put it down. It had cast such a dream like languor over me that I just had to drift for a bit.
To all the purveyors of words, the ones who hit their marks and the ones that don’t, the ones who make me laugh out loud, or bawl my eyes out, or dream a dream that I had never thought of before, you are the ones who have shaped the better part of who I am. So this is all your damn fault…