Tuesday, May 15, 2012

John Minichillo, On Reading

"When the time came that I was too embarrassed to check out children's books I didn't venture all the way into the adult library but stopped at an aisle of science fiction, with covers that promised life and love on other planets, and lasers. Despite the covers these books were work, and I didn't always finish but I learned how one book led to another, one author to another.
In high school I still wasn't a reader, but I had an imagination and I wrote with confidence. In college I wanted to read more because reading seemed the best way to spend time on myself. The old library made the tuition seem worth it. The untrustworthy elevator, the smoking lounges, the reading room, the tapestries, the dust.
Summers I worked in a cemetery where I got more reading done than I did as an English major. We took long breaks in secluded sections where I would sit on a headstone and read. I read Vonnegut. I read Steinbeck. I read Moby-Dick.
After teaching science for a year and working as a bank teller for a year I went and got an MFA. But I was just starting to get it so I went to work on a Ph.D, where they looked at my transcripts and saw gaps. I had studied English but not enough. A professor said to me, 'You've never read Eliot?' Another professor said, 'You've never read Shaw?'

As I neared the end of my Ph.D. work I took a semester without classes to prepare for comprehensive exams. The reading list was insurmountable but I read all day every day. It was a gift, the time to read. I put my back out sitting in a second-hand chair. I bought a new chair and wandered into readings not on the list.

I have always loved that books arrive at my door in brown boxes, but now I read less. I write every day that I'm able. I teach. I have a family. I've gone electronic with my reading so I can sneak it in between classes, or in bed, or I listen to the Kindle robot-voice on my commute. I'm still discovering new writers who open me up. I still feel more confidence as a writer than I do as a reader. I still love the old dust of an old library but I'm not nostalgic about books. Pixels and e-ink get me there. I was hesitant to wander into the adult library as a kid, because I suspected reading was work. And it is."

{John Minichillo's novel, The Snow Whale, a contemporary retelling of Moby-Dick, was an Orion Magazine Book Prize notable and an Independent Publishers Book Awards regional gold medalist for the West-Pacific. Hey Small Press! selected The Snow Whale as a Best of 2011 and called the novel "the funniest book we reviewed all year." He's a 2012 recipient of a Tennessee individual artists grant and he lives in Nashville with his wife and son.}

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