My early recollections of the dangers of reading center around sunburn. I would lie out on a beach towel in the backyard and get so engrossed in Nancy Drew or some other thrilling story that I would forget the time. Then, lobster-like I would come inside the house suffering.
As I grew, however, the perils of reading became even greater. Three stories illustrate my point.
When I was in high school, I was a page at my local library. For some reason that totally escapes me, I was enthralled with the Jalna series, one of those sprawling historical sagas, by Mazo de la Roche. I remember one afternoon leaving the library with the newest book in hand and wanting to get home quickly so I could continue the story.
What happened is that I backed straight into the brick side of the library. My father couldn’t understand it. “The library wasn’t moving,” he said to me. “How could you just deliberately hit it?” I don’t remember what my answer was, but it certainly wasn’t that reading was dangerous. Yet that’s what the real reason was. In my haste to read, I’d become a hazard in my car.
Story two happened years later and concerns forgetting my children because I immersed in Edwin of the Iron Shoes, the first Sharon McCone mystery by Marcia Muller. I remember looking at my watch, absolutely panicking because I was really late picking up my daughters from school, and leaving the house.
Standing in my garage with no purse and no keys, I realized I’d just locked myself out with no way of getting back in. Having read millions of suspense and mysteries, I knew what I had to do: Break into my own house. I scouted for the smallest window I thought I could climb through and using a hammer from the garage, broke it. Yes, I was late picking up the kids, I had a broken window to repair, and I again realized that reading is a dangerous business. It had turned me to the dark side in a moment of panic.
The last story is commonplace, so commonplace that my husband only has to come home, sniff the air, and realize what happened. Cooking is one of the victims of reading. I can have perfectly good intentions and still ruin a meal. What’s funny is that I like to cook and look for new recipes to try.
But put a book in my hand at the same time, and disaster occurs. I remember reading one of Mary Balogh’s early books, possibly either An Unacceptable Offer or The Obedient Bride—or maybe it was Anne Stuart’s Lord Satan’s Bride—putting a chicken to bake in the oven, only to find, many pages later, the ghost of the black, crispy chicken was not happy. Nor was my husband who had to stop by Colonel Chicken’s to buy us dinner. Just another example of the dangerous activity of reading.
I could give example after example. But the real question is if reading is dangerous for you. If so, how? Your confessions are safe with me.
- Pat Henshaw