Monday, December 31, 2018

'I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty - to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom...The very decided manner with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read. What he most dreaded, that I most desired.' 
― Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick 


Sunday, December 30, 2018

I bought books, only books, unless you count the candy and the harmonicas I bought for five grandchildren, this year for holiday gifts for immediate family and extended family members. In addition to those books, I gave bookstore gift certificates to my three daughters and their kids. For one daughter I went to Three Lives, in the photo, in the West Village. The store was her old haunt when she lived right by it before she moved to Brooklyn. For my daughter uptown with two kids I went to The Corner Bookstore which is near them. For my Wyoming daughter and husband and their three daughters I called and got gift certificates sent to them from the Valley Bookstore that's right by them. All of that was great fun for me. When I was in the stores I thought about how lucky I was and the other customers I saw were to have such good stores in their neighborhoods. And I thought about how many neighborhoods don't have a bookstore and don't even have good library hours in this big lucky-for-some city. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

                                                                   Amos Oz.  RIP.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Have I ever seen a better movie than 'Roma'? Have I ever cared for a character more than I cared for Cleo? I saw it at the IFC theater in Greenwich Village last night. Place was filled. See it in a theater. It's on Netflix, but don't. You'll pause it. You can't pause it in front of the big screen. At the end, people stayed in their seats watching long credits in Spanish. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

'My parents would frisk me before family events. Before weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, and what have you. Because if they didn't, then the book would be hidden inside some pocket or other and as soon as whatever it was got under way I'd be found in a corner. That was who I was...that was what I did. I was the kid with the book.'
                     ― Neil Gaiman 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

'It was not a matter of believing or disbelieving what I read, but of feeling something new, of being affected by something that made the look of the world different.' 
                 ― Richard Wright, Black Boy

Monday, December 24, 2018

'The book thief has struck for the first time – the beginning of an illustrious career.'
                           ― Markus Zusak,
The Book Thief


Sunday, December 23, 2018

'I am eternally grateful for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on.' 
                             ― Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, December 22, 2018

‘I’d love to scream at them’: how showroomers became the No 1 threat to bookshops

Customers who visit stores only to research their online purchases are the biggest threat to the industry – and booksellers are taking a stand

Girl looking at her phone in a bookshop
 ‘Sooner or later, the public will wake up to the damage companies such as Amazon are doing to the creative industry’ ... Dave Kelly of Blackwell’s. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Of all the insults that booksellers stomach, the most awful is the newest. Gone are the days when it was someone shoving a book down their pants or defecating in the travel aisle that made your afternoon that little bit bleaker. Now it is “showrooming”: when customers go to physical shops only to research purchases they will make online. This is a particular bugbear of the booksellers who have been engaged in a David and Goliath battle with online retailers for the past decade.
Last weekend, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, tweeted a rebukeof the “people taking pictures of books and buying them from #Amazon in the store and even bragging about it”: “This is not OK, people. Find it here. Buy it here. Keep us here. That is all.” The tweet, by the shop’s owner, Kelly Justice, has been liked 40,000 times and was met with support from booksellers around the world. But among customers, the conversation was divided between those who recognised the rudeness of the act and those who felt it was legitimate.
When I was a bookseller, I often saw customers whip out their phones to take photos of books they liked. Some had the decency to look ashamed; the worst would approach you to rant about how a book was a whole £2 cheaper online, as if we didn’t know. At least when someone defecates in your shop, they don’t say: “Look what you made me do.”
“I’d love just to be able to scream at customers who do this about tax and the treatment of authors and small publishers, but our philosophy is always to wow them with charm and knowledge, even when they are blatantly doing it,” says Dave Kelly of Blackwell’s in Oxford. “Sooner or later, the general public will wake up to the damage companies such as Amazon are doing to small businesses and the creative industry and, with a bit of luck, bookshops will still be here to supply the books that they love.”
Claire Williams of the London Review Bookshop presents a glimmer of hope. “Customers do approach you after taking a picture, but only because they’re keen to let you know that they’re making a note and not showrooming,” she says. “We’re lucky that people are vocal that they’d rather buy from us than Amazon. It is a shame, but showrooming is part of the landscape.
“If it is taken to the nth degree and we’re only used as a shop window, customers will lose all the knowledge and curation that goes into what they see in bookshops.”
Let’s see how Amazon handles the query: “I don’t know the title or the author, but it came out three months ago and the cover is blue.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

This was on Literary Hub yesterday. Sorry the text type is small. I tried. Also, I see that the photo doesn't show-up on the phone version. Sorry.

Margaret Atwood: If We Lose the Free Press, We Cease to Be a Democracy

On the Murder of Journalists and Stifling of Speech

“How many fingers am I holding up?” says the Party torturer, O’Brian, to the hapless Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. The right answer isn’t “four” or “five.” The right answer is whatever number O’Brian says it is. That is how totalitarians and warlords and authoritarians of all kinds have behaved throughout the ages. Truth is what these folks say it is, not what the facts proclaim. And if you persist in naming a factual number of fingers, then into prison with you, or off with your head. That’s if the totalitarian has already seized power: if he is only in the larval stage, you may simply be accused of spouting fake news.

We find ourselves living in a new age of O’Brians. How many journalists and truth-tellers around the world have been murdered, executed after a quasi-legal process, imprisoned, or exiled? When will we build a memorial wall to them, with all of their names inscribed?

And why do they matter? Because knowing what the power-holders are doing—in our name if it’s a democracy, or in the name of some abstract concept—fatherland, blood, soil, gods, virtue, kingship—is the only way the citizens of any society can begin to hold those power-holders to account. If a society has any pretense to being other than a serfdom, a free and independent press whose journalists have the right to dig into the factual subsoil of a story is the primary defense against encroaching winner-takes-all powercreep.

We’re living in the midst of a war being waged against this kind of journalism: the evidence-based, truth-telling kind. In the United States, the president has admitted that he spews out non-truths to keep the journos spinning. His aim is to confuse the public, so that the citizens—not knowing what to believe—will ultimately believe nothing. In a country with no ideals left, high-level lawbreakers and corruption will have free reign. Who can even object to those who sell out their country if there isn’t much of a country left?

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The signals sent to the rest of the world by the United States have not been lost on authoritarians elsewhere. When it comes to pesky journalists who wash dirty political laundry in public, anything goes. But now there is at least some push-back. As its 2018 “Person of the Year,” TIME Magazine has named four journalists and one news organization who have suffered for speaking truth. Foremost among them is the murdered Jamal Al-Khashoggi, lately of the Washington Post. Maria Ressa has been charged and threatened with imprisonment in the Philippines for writing against that country’s president’s shoot-whoever-I-say policies. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were just doing their Reuters job, but were imprisoned for talking about a massacre of Rohingya in Myanmar. And the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, shot up by a gunman who killed five. TIME said of them in its essay, “They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world—as of December 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018—who risk all to tell the story of our time.”
How many journalists and truth-tellers around the world have been murdered, executed after a quasi-legal process, imprisoned, or exiled?

The suppression of writing and writers is naturally of central concern to writers themselves. Budding totalitarians always go after artists and writers early on, for two reasons: they are relatively undefended—there isn’t a huge armed posse of fellow writers acting as their bodyguards—and they have an unpleasant habit of not shutting up. I am among their number, so I have long taken an interest in attempts to censor writers’ work and deprive them of liberty and life.

My active involvement began in the 1970s, during the time of the Argentinian junta and the régime of Pinochet in Chile. Many journalists, writers and artists were killed at that time, including the major Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In the 80s I helped found PEN Canada (English), which I headed during its first two years. I have watched as PEN America has expanded its scope, placing the defense of journalists and the free press at the center of its activities.

Gone are the days when all we had to defend was the right of novelists to say the F word in print. Now it appears that it is the right of independent-minded journalists to exist at all that is at issue. Democracies ignore this crisis at their peril: if we lose the free press, we will cease to be democracies.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Information on many of the cases cited above is here. To support PEN America and the freedom to write, make a tax-deductible donation today.

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Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. She is the author of some 16 novels, eight collections of short stories, eight children’s books, 17 volumes of poetry, 10 collections of nonfiction, as well as small press editions, television and radio scripts, plays, recordings, and editions. Her lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include groundbreaking fiction, environmental and feminist activism, and service to community as a co-founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Reading is better than life. Without reading, you’re stuck with life.'
                 ― Fran Lebowitz 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cold as it was this morning, I was glad to be with my sign on Chambers Street. People walk by bundled, a surprising number without gloves on, and cars go by, some with music thumping. The regulars say good morning. Some cars beep. New people say, That's right.  New people say, Absolutely. New people say, I'm with ya. New people say, Ain't that the truth. New people say, So true. New people give a thumbs up. New people nod church-like up and down. New people smile at the message. Some people say, Do you mind if I take a picture? The sign warms some people on cold days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

'I think part of why I have so many books around me and why I read every day is because I mythologize the writer. I don’t do that with any other artists.'
                         ― Philip Seymour Hoffman

Monday, December 17, 2018

'I feel that the care of libraries and the use of books, and the knowledge of books, is a tremendously vital thing, and that we who deal with books and who love books have a great opportunity to bring about something in this country which is more vital here than anywhere else, because we have the chance to make a democracy that will be a real democracy.' 
                                                                                                                     ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Books are all I really buy. I don't feel a need to buy much else. No more drinks. Sometimes I'll buy a book a second time when it comes out in paperback just because I loved it so or I like the look of it smaller and want to read it over again in paper like when we were younger. Yesterday I bought the paperback of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. I started reading it again last night. It's as breathtakingly serious and smart and dazzlingly funny as it was the first time.  

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Filled with coffee from breakfast with a friend in from Cleveland. I just looked at the Times. I'm not a big weekend newspaper reader. News items aren't as immediate come Saturday. Weekdays I like better. There's a weekday pace even to newspapers that's better. I set the alarm for the same time every day hoping to keep a Monday-Friday tempo on weekends. It doesn't work though. People will wait in long lines for brunch to kill the time. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

'Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.'
                                                                                    ― Carl Sagan

Thursday, December 13, 2018

It was cold today with the sign on Chambers Street. But the sky was wonderfully gray like a Thomas Hardy novel. Snow was coming. I listened to 'John Wesley Harding' when I got home. I had the album in college in 1968. I can see it sitting on the top of some kind of high table we had. It came out around Christmas. I played it a lot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

'Health and literacy are deeply connected because a quality education is at the core of sustaining a healthy life,' said Linda C. Mayes, M.D., the Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology, and director of the Yale Child Study Center.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

'For kids who are exposed to books at home, the loss of a library is sad. But for kids who come from environments where people don't read, the loss of a library is a tragedy that might keep them from ever discovering the joys of reading-or from gathering the kind of information that will decide their lot in life.'
                                  ― Michael Moore

Sunday, December 9, 2018

From the latest Columbia Journalism Review:

What’s behind a 

recent rise in books coverage?

IF IT OCCASIONALLY FEELS like nobody reads books, anymore—that we are indeed witnessing the slow death of the literary novel, and the rapid decline of leisure readingand the steady increase of American non-readers—why is it that mainstream publications are writing more about them?
Since the beginning of 2017, The New York Times has continued to expand its already robust book coverage. More recently, New Yorkannounced that it would triple its book coverage. In October, The Atlantic launched a Books section and a newsletter, “The Books Briefing,” with plans for “additional products.” Even BuzzFeed is getting in on the action: in November, they launched an online book club, complete with an attendant Facebook group and newsletter.
For the Times and The Atlantic, the changes arrived at a moment of substantial growth for each publication as a whole.
In February, The Atlantic announced a sizeable editorial expansion, spurred on by a significant post-election boost in readership and by Emerson Collective, the philanthropic organization that acquired a majority stake in the magazine last summer. The new Books section, editor Adrienne LaFrance said, is part of an enlargement of the site’s culture coverage, as well as a natural extension of the magazine’s literary roots. According to a spokesperson, in the month since its launch, the section was already receiving a 20-percent higher median view time than other sections of the site.
The Times’ book coverage used to operate out of three different departments—the business desk, the culture desk, and the Book Review. Now, it is centralized under the stewardship of editor Pamela Paul, who attributes the change, in great part, to the growing number of online Times readers.
“In a digital world, where people aren’t encountering these distinct sections of the paper in discrete parts of this physical newspaper, it becomes very confusing,” Paul says. “You would basically have three separate departments covering books totally independently and yet, in the eyes of most readers, in a single space.”
Unlike other newsrooms, the Times still has the manpower necessary to run a freestanding newspaper book review—the last of its kind in the country—which requires reading through thousands upon thousands of galleys. The Book Review is sticking to its core strengths, such as serious reviews and reportage, because it has the resources—including staff critics and full-time publishing reporter—to outperform competitors.
“Given the competitive landscape, and frankly, the fact that no one else was doing what we were doing, there was a real opportunity to do more with books,” Paul says.
Some books, such as reissues, translations, anthologies, or visual books, don’t make sense to review, but are still worth covering somehow, Paul says. Thus, the Times has also been reconsidering the way it approaches book coverage, whether through newsy recommendationsInstagram, its podcast, or more essays that integrate books into the culture-at-large.
“In the past, when a book came into the Book Review, the question we would ask is, ‘Does this book deserve to be reviewed? Should we review this?’” Paul says. “Now the question is, ‘Does this book merit coverage? And if so, what does that look like?’”
“In the past. . . the question we would ask is, ‘Does this book deserve to be reviewed? . . . Now the question is, ‘Does this book merit coverage?’”
Boris Kachka, the books editor at New Yorkwhose web audience has increased dramatically over the past year, is working on answers to those same questions. He and New York’s editor-in-chief, Adam Moss, started planning for their expansion in June, after noticing significant feedback in reader surveys about the site’s lack of book coverage.
New York’s move is less about a sudden burst in demand for books, Kachka suggests, as it is about carving out a space to cover those that may get “relegated to the sidelines of the categories under which they fall”—like, say, a novel that’s only written about on Vulture in relation to its big TV adaptation.  As such, he has “somewhat free reign” to hire freelancers to write stories. (New Yorkhas just redesigned its website, and instituted a paywall.)
His strategy, which cuts across Vulture, the Cut, Daily Intelligencer, Grub Street, and The Strategist, incorporates far less “up and down” reviews, opting instead for highly specific recommendationsdebate-inciting rankings, and reviews that take into account a reviewer’s personal point of view and say something more about the culture.
This isn’t dissimilar to the modus operandi of BuzzFeed’s Books section, which was founded in 2013 on the basis of enthusiasm.
“I was just at a panel about the future of books criticism at BookExpo, and almost everyone on the panel was saying this is something we have such limited space for, so why waste it on books we’re not recommending?” BuzzFeed News Books Editor Arianna Rebolini says. “As far as the online world, of course, you’re not limited, but time is. And are you going to put your time into something that’s not going to share well?”
Like the Times’ relatively new “Now Read This” book club, BuzzFeed’s free “virtual book club” is an analog solution updated for a digital world—a forum for people to meaningfully discuss and dissect the same book online when it’s much less feasible for people to do so in real life, at least not the way readers might’ve when Portnoy’s Complaint was published, or the way fans, oftentimes sitting in the same room as one another, can when a new Game of Thrones episode airs. BuzzFeed claims the club will actually net them money, due to Amazon affiliate links. (Other sites, including the Times and New York, use these links as well.)
In some ways, mainstream book coverage is coming down from its historically lofty perch to join the rest of arts coverage, catering less to the intelligentsia and more to the casual reader, who may not be interested in literary fiction or nonfiction. With so much to watch and read and listen to—and so many people chiming in on what to watch and read and listen to—it’s no surprise readers are hungering for a trusted source who can point them in the direction of books tailored to their interests. And those same readers may be looking for the kind of full-court, blogosphere press typically reserved for watercooler shows like Sharp Objects and meme machines like A Star Is Born.
“You look at the way Vulture activates fan coverage, the way they seamlessly cover Hollywood and the industry and then a franchise, and then services the fans of that franchise, and then comes up with ways of talking about plot twists, spoiler specials and things like that…” Kachka says. “People who do read books, which may comprise a niche smaller than the tent-pole movie niche, they still want to be served in that way.”
Though book criticism has always provided a lens through which to filter the news of the day, there also appears to be a clamoring for stories whose primary function is to shed light on today’s sociopolitical landscape. It makes sense from a “clicks” standpoint as well: you’re much more liable to read and share this pithy, much-debated reexamination of Joan Didion’s legacy in the Trump erathan you would’ve a traditional review of one of her books.
Publications are responding to the dearth of coverage previously given to non-white male writers, too. Earlier this year, inspired in part by the disproportionate number of male authors endorsed in the Times’ “By the Book” column, Electric Literature launched a “Read More Women” campaign, highlighting stories written by women about books written by women, and asking prominent writers to recommend books by women.
“It’s one thing for us to be quietly publishing more women and [stories] about women,” Jess Zimmerman, the site’s editor in chief, says. “It’s another thing to frame it as a rallying cry, and I think that’s the thing that people really responded to.”
Electric Literature’s campaign is especially effective during a moment where most conversations take place, and are driven by, social media. Ultimately, we may not have time to read more books, but we are looking for more ways to digest everything that’s going on.
“We’re constantly bombarded with tiny bits of information that are fleeting, ephemeral, occasionally inaccurate, easily forgotten,” Paul says. “I think books are like the antidote to that. Books contextualize those little bits of news. They offer a long view. They offer historical perspective. They offer a broader context.”
Given the deluge of movies, TV, and tweetstorms, it may be more important than ever for publications to help books accomplish these goals. But the best format for them to do so is likely no longer the traditional, single-book, literary review. To break through the noise, editors must translate old-fashioned book coverage to the lingua francas of today’s impossibly paced media climate: shareable lists, essays, digestible Q&As, podcasts, scannable email newsletters, hashtags, Instagrams, even book trailers.
“You can have a blog post that at least draws people’s attention to the book. Maybe they’ll read it, maybe they won’t. But at least the ideas from the book will filter through into the conversation,” Kachka says. “I think it’s important to get those ideas in, so books can have an influence beyond their readership, whatever it might be.”

Saturday, December 8, 2018

 'It was the 31st of August in 1962 that eighteen of us traveled twenty-six miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first-class citizens. We was met in Indianola by policemen, Highway Patrolmen, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time.'
                                                                         --Fannie Lou Hamer

Friday, December 7, 2018

from The New York Times:

‘I Read Morning, Night and in Between’: How One Novelist Came to Love Books

By Chigozie Obiom

For years my life followed a predictable pattern: I would sneak out of the house, play football with the neighborhood kids until dark and promptly contract malaria. Football was so intoxicating that I was willing to risk anything — the threat of punishment, injuries, even sickness — to play it. Soon enough, my mother would find out where I’d been and rush me to the Sijuwade Specialist Hospital in Akure. There, the doctor would conclude that I had kept the malaria hidden for some time and now needed to be admitted — a word my parents dreaded. By nightfall, I’d find myself in a hospital bed, my arm strapped to an intravenous drip.

My dad would often spend the night with me at the hospital while my mother tended to my siblings at home. Although angry that I had gone to play where mosquitoes could bite me, my father would not reprimand a sick child. Instead, I’d be treated with the utmost care, garlanded with endearments and brought an assortment of tasty treats I’d say I was hungry for. Then, once I’d eaten and he’d changed from his suit and tie into a shirt and pants, I would seize the moment I’d been waiting for all day.
“Eh, Uko,” he’d say.
“Please tell me a story.”

It was during one such hospital stay that I unearthed the greatest treasure of my life. I’ve come to understand that we stumble on the best things by serendipity. There are no preparations, no choreographed rehearsals. A man decides to plant a tree in his compound, on a piece of land that his parents have owned for decades. One day he digs up crude oil. In a year, his life is transformed! What he’d been just moments before his hoe dug into the earth becomes history.

My father was a gifted storyteller. At the hospital, he would tell me a story or two, or, sometimes, if he was not too tired, many in response to my request. I would try to imagine the worlds that opened up through his carefully chosen words. When, for instance, he told the story of the first white man who arrived in Igboland riding a bicycle, he made bicycle sounds, tapped his feet and gasped. He would imbue these noises with so much dread, so much significance, that vivid pictures would remain in my mind for days afterward. So riveting were these moments that I sometimes wished to prolong my hospital stay.

Between the ages of 5 and 7, I must have been admitted to the hospital at least four times, during which my father told me stories. I returned home after each stay to tightened surveillance, and it became increasingly difficult to steal out of the compound in the evenings. No longer sick, and with my father returning late from work, I was not able to get him to tell me stories. So I turned to my mother.

But my mother’s stories did not please me. They often seemed childish because they were peopled with animals, usually tortoises or hares. Only a few times did she tell stories of people; once, even of herself, ambushed on her father’s farm deep in the forest by what must have been two dozen chimpanzees. Moreover, my father told stories in English; my mother in Igbo. In a way that I could not understand at the time, the stories sounded better in English.

I discovered the reason for all this in my eighth year. My father had not told me a story in a long time. Frustrated, I barged into his room one evening just after he returned from work, and demanded he tell me a story. I had half hidden myself behind the curtain at the threshold of his door, afraid he would be angry at my intrusion.
“Oh,” he said. “Come in, Chigozie.”
“Yes, Daddy.”
I si gini?” he said to me in Igbo, even though I had spoken in English.
“You tell me a story only when I am sick. Please tell me a story now that I am not sick.”
My father laughed. He rocked back and forth and shook his head.
“Eight,” I mumbled.
“You can read now. Why don’t you read these stories yourself?” With that, he reached down to a small shelf filled with Central Bank bulletins and handed me a book whose cover had fallen off. He straightened a wrinkled page, tucked in a thread hanging loose from the spine and gave it to me.
“Go and read that, and it will tell you a story.”

I remember that night clearly. I took the book to the front porch and sat down on the floor, a foot from a trail of white ants. I opened the book to what I judged was the first page and read what turned out to be the most fascinating of the stories my father had told me.

The story was about a man who lived in a village long ago and who had magical powers. For years, the other residents fail to consult him, and, despite having performed wonders in the past, he is almost forgotten. Then, one day, the king of the village knocks on his door. His daughter, an only child, had followed an “unknown man” of extraordinary beauty to a secret location. Distraught, the king asks the shaman to find his daughter and return her to the village in exchange for half his lands. The shaman sets out only to discover that the princess had followed a skull — a member of a race of creatures who lived as skulls — that had borrowed body parts to become “a complete gentleman.”

I lay awake in bed all that night, mesmerized, even shocked, by the discovery. My father had told me this story as if it were his own creation. I had been in awe, believing him possessed of the most spectacular of gifts: that of storytelling. I had no idea that he was reading these stories and then recounting them to me.

While my mother, who had less education than my father, relied on tales told to her as a child, my father had gathered his stories from books. This was also why he told the stories in English. It struck me that if I could read well, I could be like my father. I, too, could become a repository of stories and live in their beautiful worlds, away from the dust and ululations of Akure.

What I discovered that night transformed my life. I devoured that book, “The Palm-Wine Drinkard,” by Amos Tutuola, and became a voracious reader. I read in the mornings, at nights, and, when that seemed insufficient, I read at school, in between classes. Sometimes I read during classes, placing books under the desk while the teacher taught. I was unmoved by punishments, by failing grades from not paying attention. When I had read all the books on my father’s shelf, he unearthed more from a box on top of his wardrobe. I read those, too. My head swirled, my mind brimmed. I felt as though I were walking on a metaphysical plane where no one else but me could walk, and whose pathways were known only to me.

I read while eating. I did errands hastily. I dressed hastily. My existence became mere machinery engineered to give me time to read. My mother complained, and my father began to panic. They put out strict orders that I not read anything while at school. I complied, but took to making up the lost time at odd hours, waking up in the dead of the night, when everyone was asleep, to read.
By the fifth month, I had read every book my father owned. One Saturday, he returned home and asked me to get in the car.
“I have a surprise for you.”

We drove through streets clotted with people until we got to a newly painted building with an arch over the gate that read, Ondo State Library. We walked through the arch into the building, the likes of which I had never seen. There were books everywhere, on shelves, on tables, on the floor.
“I want to register you here and bring you every Saturday here to read,” my father said.

I waited breathlessly as he completed the registration at the counter with an elderly, bespectacled woman who seemed in awe of the idea of a child coming in alone to read. My father, proud, agreed and said that it was all I wanted to do.
“That is good,” I heard the woman say. “Very, very good. Reading is like finding light, you know. Jesus said a light cannot be hidden under a bushel.”
“That is true,” my father said, nodding as the woman wrote my name on a small, square yellow card.
“Your son has found the light under the bushel.”
She handed me the card, and my father said he would pick me up at noon. I waved him goodbye and disappeared among the crowded shelves.

Chigozie Obioma is a Nigerian writer. His new novel, “An Orchestra of Minorities,” will come out in January.

I'd been in jail, and I'd been beat. I had been to a voter registration workshop, you know, to - they were just training and teaching us how to register, to pass the literacy test. Fannie Lou Hamer
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