Yesterday I finished my review of Pat Conroy’s new book, My Reading Life. What a collection of love letters to everyone in his life who supported and nurtured his love of reading and writing! Maybe it should have been obvious from his fiction, but I had no idea that Conroy was such an isolated child. During his early years, the family moved from one army base to another; he refers to himself as “lonely as an earthworm.” His mother was his only friend, and the two of them spent most of their time together at the public library.
As I read the first two chapters, about his mother and her favorite book, Gone With the Wind, and the way she haunted the public libraries wherever they lived, I kept wondering if all Southern mothers in those years were the same. My mother and I seemed to live at the library, which in our town, was very much like a house. She educated herself, just as Peg Conroy did; by bringing home books on psychology, law, interior design, cooking and art. I followed her lead, and we brought home stacks of books every week or so.
For years, I didn’t really know what it meant to buy books. I would get one at Christmas or on my birthday, but we never went into a bookstore. We had the library. Ten books at a time.
Writer Karin Slaughter has this to say about the recent closings of public libraries all over the country:
For nearly 85 percent of kids living in rural areas, the only place where they have access to technology or books outside the schoolroom is in a public library. For many urban kids, the only safe haven they have to study or do homework is the public library. Librarians are soldiers in the battle for our place in the world, and in many cases they are getting the least amount of support our communities can offer. (read the rest at Fight For Libraries as You Do Freedom.)
I borrowed GWTW from the library when I was in high school, long after I had seen the movie, and never finished it. Fiddle dee dee. Scarlett, no doubt, would find libraries the most boring places in the entire world.