Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Tony Hays, Guest Blogger
My daddy just didn’t seem to like reading. He just didn’t. He didn’t say exactly “don’t read,” but he grumbled. And that led to my first love.
I love libraries. I do. They took me to so many worlds, so many times. Libraries brought me to Troy. They brought me to the Civil War. They brought me to Camelot.
We were not poor, at home. But there was little left over with which to buy books. Daddy seemed to grumble when we did buy them. Of course, he also grumped when we read them morning, noon or night. And we read them all the time, all the time – in the tub, on the toilet, at the dinner table. But we ignored him as much as possible.
But the library! The library was Heaven on Earth. Daddy couldn’t fuss on us there. Those books didn’t cost us anything. They were free. (Well, sort of, but we didn’t understand taxes then). I read Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie (though I found her less to my liking). And the magazine section was incredible! I gloried in Punch and Time. I stayed in the school library as much as possible. That’s where I first read To Kill a Mockingbird and hope for more from Harper Lee. That’s where I picked up the Time magazine that had the article on the digs at South Cadbury, excavations that would eventually lead me to my new Arthurian series.
That was far in the future though. I still had hours of Civil War history, British history to learn. And I gloried in true crime – Lizzie Bordon, Bonnie and Clyde. My school library was the greatest place in the world. It took me to Heinrich Schliemann’s discoveries to London and Rome. It gave me my first gleam of the world beyond Nashville, TN. And that was worth all the stolen hours on its couches and side chairs.
While, as I grew, so did the spendable cash in my pocket, and I spent it at the local bookshops. I never gave up my love affair with my library. Daddy still grumbled some, about how I spent my hard earned money. But I found the public library and loved that too. It was a tad more risqué than the school library, but that was okay.
Time passed. I was to become a bit of a writer myself. Not published, of course. But I was submitting stories. Daddy had a heart attack. I went to college. Daddy died.
I kept submitting short stories. Kept getting rejected.
Until that beautiful, flat envelope showed up with that equally beautiful acceptance letter. No cash. But that would come later. I wondered what Daddy would say about that acceptance. Probably not much.
Years later, a couple of books, a hundred newspaper and magazine articles under my belt, I was having dinner with my uncle. He asked about my latest book, and we talked a bit about its success. “Daddy wouldn’t be impressed,” I ventured, absently.
My uncle snapped his head up. “What you do you mean?”
“Oh, Daddy hated it when we read, grumbled about it all the time.”
My uncle chuckled. “Your daddy read everything he got his hands on. Why, I know for a fact he once spent the last dollar he had for a book. We didn’t have much of a library at school, but he gobbled it up like a Christmas turkey.”
“Then why did he grumble so much?’
Daddy’s brother just shook his head. “I don’t know, son. Probably because if he encouraged you, you probably wouldn’t have done it. Besides, if he complained around the house, that would just drive you to the library, and that’s where he did most of his reading.”