This morning at approxiamitely 1:14, something unusual happened, something that was not thought possible: I finished a book. This sounds innocent and routine enough, I know. But a closer look at the circumstances will reveal a deep shift– a sea change if you will– in my habits. The book? The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. The medium? My Kindle app on my iPad.
Walls’s memoir of her childhood was released during a time when everyone and his brother published the “my childhood was really messed up” story. I had read a couple and was tired of the navel-gazing pity parties, sardonic wit, and bitterness. They had worn out their welcome on my bookshelves. When Walls’s book came out with critical acclaim, I didn’t care; all I heard was “troubled youth with crazy parents”. It didn’t help that my co-worker at the time, who thought J.D. Salinger only wrote one book, tried to persuade me to read it. Her memoir was doomed.
It remained that way until one of my book clubs decided to read her other book, Half-Broke Horses. The honesty with which she wrote that “true-life” novel persuaded me to read The Glass Castle. Of all of the “crappy childhood” memoirs I’ve read, her work is the best. She pieces together vignettes that unsparingly shows what it was like to be a child of Rex and Rose Mary Walls, two larger than life people who loved the idea of LIFE. In their pursuit of life, they were by many standards, awful parents. Neither could hold down a job for long, not for a lack of skill, but for a disdain of authority and “punching the clock”. They and their four kids lived in dire poverty and moved shiftlessly from town to town. Jeannette and her brother had to sift through garbage cans at school for food. When they did have money, it went to Rex’s drinking problem or Rose Mary’s art supplies.
What Walls does really well, and the reason why I enjoyed her story so much, is show how her parents gave her an interesting perspective on life and she comes to terms with who her parents are. While she has every reason to hold a grudge against them, she doesn’t. Because of and in spite of them, she learned to not give up on herself and her dreams to become the person she is today. She also chronicles her changing view of her father; she believed he could do anything when she was young, but as she gained a better understanding of her life versus the lives of others, she struggled with the fact that his dreams were just that, dreams. After she escapes her parents’ house, she struggles with revealing to others who she is and where she came from. This is a memoir of true understanding and development.
The Glass Castle is also the first book I read on my iPad. I have been ferociously anti-Kindle, but the first thing Steve did to my iPad was download the Kindle app and Pride and Prejudice. Before I left for Europe, he implored me to please, download a book. To make him be quiet, I did. After catching me reading the book from my iPad, he asked in wonder, “Are you going to read the whole thing?”. I sighed, “If I plan on finishing it, yes.”
My verdict? I still like books and my post-it notes. I still love book smell and the freedom to look at the cover and reviews. I like watching the progression of my bookmark, and I can read during the take-off and landing on at plane. The benefit of my iPad is that I can read in bed at night without the light on, and Steve will not be disturbed. In three weeks when school starts, this will be a moot point as I will be the one going to sleep earlier. The percentage bar at the bottom of the screen in a cool feature, but a bookmark can do the same thing. All in all, if I need to use it, I have it.