I’m not sure how I escaped from having to read “Slaughterhouse Five” in high school. Actually, I didn’t read a lot of literature most students my age were required to read. Books like, “Fahrenheit 451,” “1984,” “Animal Farm,” and others were familiar to me only by their title and author. I did pick them up years later and read them for fun, not assignment. I’m kind of glad for not being forced to read these works of fiction during my high school years because I’m not sure I would have enjoyed them as much as when I did. I did enjoy Shakespeare. Our first play we read was, you’ve probably guessed, “Romeo and Juliet.” Upon completing the play in class I went to the school’s library and checked out the only copy I could find of Hamlet. I don’t know why I wanted to read it, but I did. It is still one of my favorite plays and in college I wrote a research paper about the character Ophelia. Interestingly enough, I found most information about the character vague, and lacking in depth. As a result I had something close to twenty references in the bibliography where most people had four to eight. The research was extensive and took me over a month to compile enough information backed up with periodicals, and books, some being so old I was impressed by the college’s library contents.
In almost every semester of college I was enrolled in an English class of some sort. Well, maybe not the last semester. Essay questions began to be wanted on exams. Papers for class, any class, I welcomed. I even took a class on film analysis. It was a class where we critiqued movies. Each movie we were assigned certain topics to focus on during the film, be it lighting, music, character development, subplots, shooting styles the director went with. That was a fun class. At this point in my college career I was getting close to my last semester. The professor of the class seemed to like me, and was surprised at some of the ideas and concepts I brought up in our discussions in class. He encouraged me to get my masters in mass communications. It was Advice I decided not to take since financing more education from my parents didn’t seem like an option, and I was as broke as the cliché describes college kids. Plus, I had no debt, and continuing my education would surely bring that unwanted creature into my life.
The summer I interned at the newspaper of my hometown, on a morning where I killed time before going into work by loitering in a bookstore I found who was to become my favorite writer, Kurt Vonnegut. It was not the man, but his latest book “Timequake.” Like Jack Kerouac and the Joan Anderson letter, I was changed by the text I read. It made me change my writing style, which actually seemed to work better for the format of journalistic writing. Over the next year I read any novel the local bookstores had available. “Timequake” was the book that reignited my love of reading. Although I did not realize it at the time, I had read one of Vonnegut’s short stories, “Harrison Bergeron,” during my senior year. With Kurt’s passing and the onslaught of his unpublished fiction my devotion to him has wavered. He always seemed to be a perfectionist in my mind’s eye, and the posthumous publications are a means to make someone money by putting out the stuff that wasn’t up to his usual standard, but that could be just me.
I’ve tried to continue my enjoyment over the years, and thanks to audio books I can soak in more than my free time allows. Somewhere along the way I became a fan of crime novels. Not so much the private eye mysteries, but crime novels. Elmore Leonard is good, not to mention George V. Higgins, but I really enjoy Dennis Lehane. Even though Lehane says he strives to be like another good author whose work I enjoy, James Lee Burke, I would have to say Lehane has his craft down. My enjoyment of this genre of novels inspired me to write one. I never thought I would write anything in this category, but the story wanted to come out. It’s not the first book I’ve written. But it’s the first one I’ve finished, which is a feat in itself.