Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tazi's Corner #5: Thoughts On Reading (Part I)

Happy Sunday Readers! Today I share my thoughts on reading! I won't bore you with introductory blather - today I get right down to business by bringing you Issue #5 of

Tazi's Corner
Life As Your Pet Sees It!

Something only a few people know about my Mommie is that she practices her professional speaking voice by reading aloud to me. I snuggle in her lap and hear whatever story she happens to be reading. On one recent day it was The Running Man by Richard Bachman/Stephen King and I was startled out of my lull by a jarring sentence: “Who reads anymore?” Who reads anymore, indeed! It seems that we are so tied up with our electronics (even books are electronic now!) that the question – written over thirty years ago in a setting that takes place in our near future – had an eerie sense of omniscience.

Who reads anymore, indeed? This week’s passing of literary giant Gore Vidal brought out the painful truth, as Facebook flooded with regret of the passing of the world’s most famous hairstylist. For the record, they were thinking of Vidal Sassoon, who passed away this past May. Here to explain the difference is my dear friend Derek P. of North Carolina:

Friend of Derek P.: OMG, Gore Vidal just died - I LOVED his shampoo!!

Derek P.: That’s Vidal Sassoon you idiot.

Friend of Derek P: Oh - I get them confused ALL the time.

Derek P.: Yeah I can see why - Gore Vidal is a GAY WWII Vet, Brilliant Writer, Activist and Politician!! While Vidal Sassoon was a STRAIGHT guy who was famous for being a hairdresser!!

I’d give those who confused the two men a Tazi Paw Slap of Disgust, but I think the Gay Verbal Beotch-Slapping just administered will suffice.

Now that I have dispensed with the formalities, the question of the day remains: What makes a book a classic? What do some books have that make generation after generation identify them to the point where even people who do not enjoy reading enjoy them. What is it about these books that make people who have no time to read find the time to read them? What is it about their appeal that makes Hollywood turn these books into movies, giving them an even greater following? As a writer, one who seeks fame and fortune enough to make it onto Page Six of the New York Post, these are questions to which I need answers. Is there anybody out there who can give them?

A part of me would guess it is because we can relate their storylines to our everyday lives; but then I wonder: Who exactly can relate to the Marquise de Merteuil of Les Liaisons Dangereuse and why are they walking free? (For those unfamiliar with the book or the movie version of it, Dangerous Liaisons, it was modernized into the Reese Witherspoon movie Cruel Intentions, with Ms. Witherspoon in the Marquise de Merteuil role). Which of us would ever put up with the meddling ways of Jane Austen’s title character Emma? Amusing as her matchmaking is in the book, which of us would put up with it in real life? (For those of you unfamiliar with the book Emma, you can rent the Gwyneth Paltrow movie based on the book). I am not even going to touch The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne (and played marvelously by Demi Moore in the movie version). If we read as a form of escape, why would we wish to be faced with our own shortcomings through the printed word?

Several years ago Nintendo DS (yes, the video game people; ironic, huh?) came out with a list of 100 Must Read Classic Books. In looking through it, my Mommie realized she had read about eighty of them; starting with Little Women (#1) when she was a child, home sick with the flu, and finishing with Treasure Island (#90), a college reading assignment. When she heard that the average person has only read six books on the list, it made her very sad. Why were people not reading these wonderful stories? There is more to books than Twilight and Harry Potter! Simply put, a child’s childhood is not complete without exposure to Long John Silver (the literary character, not the fast-food restaurant); Christmas is not complete without a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As awesome as I find Muppet Treasure Island (Mommie has a crush on Tim Curry!) and A Muppet Christmas Carol (Michael Caine at his best!) the levity of the performance leaves behind the deep emotional connection that occurs with the printed word. Perhaps this is what makes a book a classic: It brings about an emotional connection between the reader and the story; one that must be shared, and can be shared across generations. Mommie’s favorite book collections are C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; she gave copies of both to the boys she used to babysit, now college students, and one of her cherished memories was the look on their faces when they received them: Pure unadulterated joy.

A good book is timeless! Do your part to pass on the wonder to a new generation!


P.S. If this column sounds a bit truncated,m that is because it is! Come back next week for Part II of this column, when I will present Tazi’s List of 39 Must Read Modern (and Not So Modern) Classics!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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