Judas the Apostle. I was recently chairing a committee tasked with developing ways and means to make Baton Rouge into a literary city. Laugh not; the arts are well represented here with world-class facilities and programs for the visual and performing arts. Our downtown revitalization is winning awards across the country. Young people are moving in and our arts and entertainment district is vibrant. It’s only that literature is underrepresented with programs and infrastructure in spite of some amazing home-grown authors. Baton Rouge will fill that gap and become a literary city.
But that’s not the point of this tale. As I was listening to the debate on the literary city project, I drifted back to my own first confrontation with literature. Maybe I was seven or eight. I was definitely not a reader and I hated school. In that day, families lived close and I had been sent to my grandmother’s house for the day. Believe me when I tell you there was nothing for a kid to do. There was only a very small yard and in the summer afternoons we were required to take a nap. There was no TV but there was a big radio always tuned to NBC. I was in the “boys” room where my dad and his brother had grown up. I rolled around on the bed but could not sleep.
There was a small bookshelf on the wall and out of desperation I stood on the bed and studied the titles. I picked one out, opened it and I began to read. My spirit soared and I fell into books. In that minute, I became a life long reader. I’m convinced that this is one of the events where I can pin point that my life changed. Had I not become a reader, I don’t know where I would be today. I think you readers will know what I mean.
Oh? What was the book? Why it was Tarzan of the Apes, the first in the series. I read every one of the Tarzan books and then the John Jones Martian series. If ERB had written a thousand books, I would have read every one of them that summer. When I went back to school that fall, suddenly, my reading, comprehension and english scores were off the charts. This is what reading can do. It changed my life. Now… writing for others is changing it again. Best.