Monday, October 13, 2014

Rewards for Reading

Awards and rewards

When I was 16, I read Gone With the Wind for the first time. I imagined myself in scenes, and as a high school senior I extracted a scene from the book, memorized and performed it for my drama class assignment. 

Next I competed against 35 girls who represented 23 schools in the Dallas area UIL speech tournament. The scene where Mammy helps Scarlett get dressed for the barbeque at Twelve Oaks––I played both parts––won me a first place trophy.

Seated near the back of the high school auditorium, stage right under a balcony, when the announcer called my name, I was as overwhelmed and mystified as any Academy Award winner. 

Breathless and speechless by the time I got to the stage, I accepted that award. But afterwards, in the picture taken for our school newspaper, I look askance, nervous, self-conscious, wearing a dress I had made, back when dresses were all a girl could wear to school.

Hide and Seek

At this stage of life, I know that most actors hide behind the characters they play, and when they must come out from behind the camera or the footlights, their insecurities pop out like a red-head's freckles after a day in the sun.

Still, I remain fascinated by drama in its many forms. Whole worlds get compressed between the pages of books and during the screen hours of a movie. And there, the reader or watcher loses himself. 

And if he or she is lucky, they might find themselves too.

That's what happened to me back when I picked up the 1,037 pages of Margaret Mitchell's story of the Old South. I found myself in Scarlett O'Hara's character, enough to know that I didn't want to be like her, or rather, end up like her.

In a way, Scarlett set me on a course, a trajectory pointed away from innate selfishness.

Even author Margaret Mitchell said of "my poor Scarlett" that being compared to her was not a compliment. "Scarlett was a hussy and I am not."

Fact and Fiction:  Mirrors of self

When I read any book worth reading, I expect resonance. 

I expect, because I am a human being, to see some aspect of myself revealed––good or bad. Most often, both. I expect that what the writer took the time and care to capture in words will be worth the reader's time to follow. 

I expect a carrot or a stick. A reward or a reminder. A good book will show me something about life.

Because each of us is the main character in our own story, you and I are interested in ourselves and how our story will turn out. 

And we are never more interesting to ourselves––or more human––than when we can recognize ourselves in the mirror of another person's life.

No comments: