A Fantastical Way Back to Myself Through Reading

My mission to read all the Pulitzer Prize winning Fiction novels began a few months ago with an intense desire to become one of the cherished few accepted into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  Paul Harding is a graduate of this program so I must start here.  Having volunteered to help my cousin move from Madison to Iowa City, I was ripe for the exploring and ready to put foot to sidewalk as soon as the moving truck was unloaded.  I researched all the bookstores in this town, but the first one I entered won my heart.

Prairie Lights bookstore felt so exciting to me.  Perhaps it was the “City of Lit” that had me all jittery for some fresh pages to smell and peruse.  Maybe it was Paul from “Paul’s Corner” who helped me find the Pulitzer winner from this year, Tinkers by Paul Harding and then cheered me out the door when he noticed I had purchased one of his new favorite books.  Or the Times Club upstairs where I had a real chai tea and eavesdropped on three emphatic author-wanna-bes.  I had a serious crush on this place.

I think, however, that my star-struckedness had more to do with the fact that I had promised myself – no – allowed myself to read again.  I had just spent an exhausting year pouring myself into a project that ended up kicking me to the curb anyhow.  I had sacrificed every important relationship, most damaging being the one with myself, to manifest a dream that I couldn’t have.  Or maybe I no longer wanted.  I was burnt out, abandoned and hoping to meet myself on the street one day.

This book was my first step toward running into my elusive self.  I was giving myself permission to revel in a pleasure I was rabid over as a child.  I once devoured books and even became a word collector.  I would look the words up in my raggedy Webster and try to use them in an attempt to expand my own limited voice.  Why had I ever allowed this person to become buried by the drive to earn a paycheck?

Tinkers symbolizes the beginning of a sojourn to find that child, tackle her to the ground and throttle her until she answers every last question I suddenly have bouncing around in my head.  ”Where have you been?  Why did you leave me?  And by the way – I have so much to tell you!”  As I pull her to her feet, sheepishly remove the grass from her hair and awkwardly pat her shoulder, I realize this is an embarrassing way to begin a fantastical way back to myself.