One of the times I was back visiting Florida I was at my parents’ house browsing their bookshelves and came across a copy of Light in August, by William Faulkner. Inside the book, there were a lot of sentences underlined and words circled and notes in the margins. It was my sister’s handwriting, and the book she had read in high school for her English class. I browsed some of the passages and was impressed with what I read, so I brought the book with me back to Berlin, and started to read it last week. I am almost finished with it, and looking forward to reading As I Lay Dying later this year possibly, after I clear up some half-reads in my shelves. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about how strange it is that 31 years have passed since my sister put all the little markings in this book. Little did she know then that the next time the book would be read would be 31 years later by me while living in Berlin, Germany. 31 years ago, the Berlin Wall was still up, and I was 15 years old. I was not a reader. I hated literature. I hated school too, and would only ever do the bare minimum to get a passing grade. I don’t know how I got through my English classes. I never read any of the books that were assigned. I just let myself fail on certain tests and went on daydreaming about sports, and the beautiful girls I would never get, joking and drawing cartoons of my teachers and peers and figuring out how to get drunk. Speaking of which, I had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous at 17 years old. The school sent me. The school said I needed to go every Saturday morning for a month after being found drinking beers in the press box of the football stadium after school. I was drunk up there, watching the marching band warm up for that night’s game. I got suspended for 5 days too, and that was just when my grades were starting to go up.
Well, I graduated somehow. And then I used the same scraping by techniques to make it through college. I graduated from Florida State University with a Business Marketing degree, but do you think I had any interest in business? Hell no. I wasn’t interested in anything but getting wasted and laid (in that order) until literature found me my last year there. A girl I had been dating said I reminded her of the Dean Moriarty character in On the Road, and bought me the book for me. I thought it had potential looking at the cover, but thought the viewpoint of the narrator was too naïve. I’d already been corrupted. Total disappointment, I thought, and I wasn’t much like Dean Moriarty. But the book primed me for Bukowski’s Hot Water Music, and then came titans like Nietzsche, and Turgenev, and Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. By the time I graduated, I was obsessed with literature. I am still obsessed. It’s a sickness, actually. But I think a lot of it is a making up for what I deprived myself of when I was young. All those years on a false path. My apathy back then. The feeling something got away from me eons ago, and trying to get it back, and half-knowing it’s too late. I struggle with this every day, but I accept. You can’t rearrange history and it’s no use being angry at the sun for rising when it does.