I’m thrilled to welcome writer Jeri-Walker-Bickett to Writer’s Notebook today – my first guest blogger! Jeri has a fantastic a blog JeriWB: What Do I know? which is a wonderful combination of author interviews, writing tips and book reviews. You can read my post, The Blind Assassin: A Lesson in Thinking Beyond the Expected, on her blog today.
Reading Fever by Jeri Walker-Bickett
Can you recall the last time reading fever struck? The symptoms and level of severity vary widely, but it’s probably safe to say the predominant sign of this disease entails its victim being possessed by a seemingly unexplainable desire to read. At its worst, this plague can cause the afflicted to lose sleep, lose track of time, and even lose their sense of self.
I came down with reading fever at a young age. My first foray into literature’s powerful grip caused me to imagine myself a horse. I vacillated back and forth between assuming the identity of the Black Stallion and Black Beauty as naturally one changes a pair of shoes. By high school, I succumbed to the throes of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat. Countless nights rendered me afraid to fall asleep out of fear the fanged-creature lingered just outside the window.
My last, and beyond a doubt, most severe case of reading fever struck back in November 2008. The first Twilight movie would soon be coming out, following the novel’s 2005 release. This was a reality I could not escape because at the time my days involved teaching English to high school freshmen. Practically every girl suffered from some degree of vampire-mania thanks to Stephanie Meyer’s wildly popular teen vampire series.
I don’t tend to read much young adult literature, but something in me wanted to know what awaited the reader who dipped into Meyer’s thick books and their beautifully understated covers. How could entire groups of teenage girls forgo gossip to keep their noses buried in those books? Then later, those same girls would argue the merits of siding with Team Edward or Team Jacob, and whether or not it was better to lust after a vampire or a werewolf. One day, a few minutes of class time remained, and a student asked if I would show the YouTube movie trailer for the upcoming movie.
Always eager to promote a love of literature, I acquiesced and queued the video. The boys belly-ached a bit, but watched in fascination as the female contingent of the class scrambled to pull blinds shut and gather around the screen. At first, squeals erupted, but the more domineering girls quickly shushed the others. At the end of the short clip, I witnessed the lot of them swoon. Then someone asked, “Can you play it again?”
I vowed to get my hands on that book.
As a former vampire-junkie, I felt compelled to pick up a paperback copy of the book from the local Fred Meyer store. The book’s story of a clumsy teenage girl who falls in love with a statuesque vampire cast its spell on me. For the first time since reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road I simply let myself be carried away by the power of the story. A sappy love story, but one that nonetheless harkened back to the days I too fell madly in love with a boy.
After the weekend, I returned to school for the two and a half days that remained before Thanksgiving break. With the rush before the long weekend, I only had time to offer students a teaser by pointing to the map of America where I had placed a sticker on Forks, Washington. Practically every student could guess that I had read Twilight over the weekend based on the literary locale.
What to do? Five glorious days away from teaching awaited. I had to get my hands on the rest of the books in the series. On my way home, I stopped at the nearest Wal-Mart. No luck. The shelves were bare. I ventured back to the Fred Meyer, but the second book was out of stock. I drove further down the road to descend upon the tiny Walden Books. Inside, I tried to act nonchalant as I competed with a teenage girl to peruse the shelves. My hesitance meant she beat me to the last boxed set. By that point, it was getting dark and tiny flakes of snow filled the sky. I hot-rodded my Mustang further down the road to another Wal-Mart, only to once again find shelves sans vampire books. Famished, I called my husband to let him know I was going to try one more store before finally coming home for dinner.
At the third and final Wal-Mart located within reasonable driving distance, victory was mine! I piled the three massive tomes into my hand basket: New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn. In the book aisle, a woman stopped me to tell me how much she loved the books. Then cashier gushed about how she couldn’t wait to see the movie, and before I got out the store’s automatic doors, another mother and daughter sitting on a bench stopped me to tell me what a treat I was in for.
Was it a treat? In hindsight, my critical side can say no. The books contain serious flaws. But at the time, I spent nearly five days straight perched on my sofa barely stopping to eat or bathe as I inhaled over 2,000 pages and succumbed to a reading-induced fever.
When I closed the cover of the last book, the fervor lingered. Only later would I revel in reading feminist criticism directed toward the books. For a short moment in time, I simply became a silly girl who fell in love with an impossible boy. And that was more than enough.
Sadly, I will probably never again experience such a full-blown reading fever as now practically any book can be downloaded to my Kindle within seconds. There is a lot to be said for how really coveting a book can make the reading of it all the better.
In what ways have you suffered reading fever? Please share your story by leaving a comment.
Jeri Walker-Bickett was born and raised in Wallace, Idaho, a rough and tumble mining town with a checkered past. The storytelling urge struck at a young age, but an undergraduate degree in writing led to a graduate degree in English education. Between living the scholarship-laden life of an academic bum, she did seasonal work in national parks. Jeri met the love of her life in Yellowstone and later married him in Las Vegas. This phase in their lives sparked an obsession with food and travel. They currently live in North Carolina with their pets. She recently published a collection of literary short stories titled Such is Life. Her forthcoming novel, Lost Girl Road, is a ghost story that takes place in the woods of northwest Montana.