Reading

My first recollection of reading anything comes from the second grade where I remember the teacher was having us read passages from whatever Dick and Jane reader was part of the educational orthodoxy of upstate New York in 1952. I remember these readers as being pretty lame, and none of it was of any difficulty for me, but was not so easy for many of the other members of the class. I remember being so bored by it all that I would fain difficulty with passages just to make the session more lively, and get some attention from the teacher.

At about the same time I was also reading comic books of a particularly grisly sort — the kind with dripping zombies climbing out of the mud of their graves, or skeletons walking about to terrify all and sundry. I remember this because my mother attempted to dissuade me from buying these as they would make me afraid, and "I’d be sorry". She was of course right, and after a few nights of disquieting nightmares, I stuck to more mundane matter — mostly Scrooge Mc duck.

About a year later I was spending a Saturday afternoon with my grandmother Boyhan, and she, finding me too much underfoot said, "why don’t you read this — your father read it when he was a little boy". She then handed me a copy of "Tom Swift and His Motorcycle" which was written in 1910 (my father was born in 1922). Anyhow, this was the first real bound book that I ever read from cover to cover. From time to time thereafter I would read other titles from the original Tom Swift series, but I found them horribly dated (a motorcycle that can go "a mile a minute!" seemed quite tame even by the standards of 1952). By 1953 I was spending all of my weekly allowance (a princely sum of one dollar) on titles from the Tom Swift Junior series. I read these through about the 15th volume by which time I had moved on to meatier stuff.

One afternoon I was at my grandmother Thomas’s house with my mother with nothing to do, and I asked her for a reading suggestion (she was an avid reader of mysteries and particularly liked Perry Mason and The Saint). She suggested I read "Fer de Lance" by Rex Stout — "I really like all the arguments between Nero Wolfe and Inspector Cramer, as well as all the beer he drinks". Thus began my lifelong love affair with one of my two favorite authors (the other being PG Wodehouse).

Most of my reading for pleasure since then has been of the mystery, or science fiction variety (with more lately a soupcon of thrillers added to the mix).

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