I am not deprived

Published 10:28 pm Monday, January 12, 2009

From the moment I learned how to string phonetic sounds together in my head, I have been reading everything I could get my hands on. By the time I reached the age of 8, I had plowed through the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series, a dozen Beverly Cleary chapter books, numerous “Babysitter’s Club” and Hardy Boys books, and had even written a couple of short stories of my own.

By the time I was out of high school, I had moved on to more adult works. The entire Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress both made their way into my memory, as well as the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, the sermons of numerous early Protestant preachers, several of Shakespeare’s plays and dozens of works of fiction.

While getting a bachelor’s degree in English at Longwood University, my literary frame of reference increased exponentially. With an average of about three to seven novels per week required for my classes, I enjoyed a range of literature from the beginnings of English to the very latest works, still warm from the presses as they hit the college bookstore. I also dipped my toes into the realms of international literature and literary criticism.

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In the two and a half years since I graduated, I have devoured countless more books, including many high school standards that I never, shall we say, got around to reading in high school – like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Scarlet Letter.”

However, all this counted for naught when a particular member of the News-Herald’s newsroom staff discovered last week that I have never read “Alice in Wonderland.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s description of the letter “A” on Hester Prynne’s chest doesn’t quite describe the color of scarlet that this particular person’s face turned when he discovered this.

His blatant shame that he was in the same building as me was evident as he stammered for a response. My protests that I knew the general story of how Alice fell into the rabbit hole and was greeted by a cast of shady characters were met with a stapled, two-page printout of a passage from the story, along with a wide array of insults and a harangue of questions such as “How do you live with yourself?”

I had never considered myself deprived simply because I skipped most of the traditional children’s literature. However, I may have to reconsider, just for the sake of my personal enrichment. I’ll be calling on my local children’s librarian soon.