It became clear that Keisha Blake could not start something without finishing it. If she climbed onto the boundary wall of Caldwell, she was compelled to walk the entire wall, no matter the obstructions in her path (beer cans, branches). This compulsion, applied to other fields, manifested itself as "intelligence." Every unknown word sent her to a dictionary--in search of something like "completion"--and every book led to another book, a process that, of course, could never be completed. This route through early life gave her no small portion of joy, and, indeed, it seemed at first that her desires and her capacities were basically aligned. She wanted to read things--could not resist wanting to read things--and reading was easily done, and relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, that she should receive any praise for such reflexive habits baffled the girl, for she knew herself to be fantastically stupid about many things. Wasn't it possible that what others mistook for intelligence was in fact only a sort of mutation of the will?
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It became clear that Keisha Blake could not start something without finishing it. If she climbed onto the boundary wall of Caldwell, she was compelled to walk the entire wall, no matter the obstructions in her path (beer cans, branches). This compulsion, applied to other fields, manifested itself as “intelligence.” Every unknown word sent her to a dictionary–in search of something like “completion”–and every book led to another book, a process that, of course, could never be completed. This route through early life gave her no small portion of joy, and, indeed, it seemed at first that her desires and her capacities were basically aligned. She wanted to read things–could not resist wanting to read things–and reading was easily done, and relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, that she should receive any praise for such reflexive habits baffled the girl, for she knew herself to be fantastically stupid about many things. Wasn’t it possible that what others mistook for intelligence was in fact only a sort of mutation of the will?

-Zadie Smith

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You should date a girl who reads.Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.Buy her another cup of coffee.Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.She has to give it a shot somehow.Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

-Rosemarie Urquico

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So began my love affair with books. Years later, as a college student, I remember having a choice between a few slices of pizza that would have held me over for a day or a copy of On the Road. I bought the book. I would have forgotten what the pizza tasted like, but I still remember Kerouac. The world was mine for the reading. I traveled with my books. I was there on a tramp steamer in the North Atlantic with the Hardy Boys, piecing together an unsolvable crime. I rode into the Valley of Death with the six hundred and I stood at the graves of Uncas and Cora and listened to the mournful song of the Lenni Linape. Although I braved a frozen death at Valley Forge and felt the spin of a hundred bullets at Shiloh, I was never afraid. I was there as much as you are where you are, right this second. I smelled the gunsmoke and tasted the frost. And it was good to be there. No one could harm me there. No one could punch me, slap me, call me stupid, or pretend I wasn’t in the room. The other kids raced through books so they could get the completion stamp on their library card. I didn’t care about that stupid completion stamp. I didn’t want to race through books. I wanted books to walk slowly through me, stop, and touch my brain and my memory. If a book couldn’t do that, it probably wasn’t a very good book. Besides, it isn’t how much you read, it’s what you read. What I learned from books, from young Ben Franklin’s anger at his brother to Anne Frank’s longing for the way her life used to be, was that I wasn’t alone in my pain. All that caused me such anguish affected others, too, and that connected me to them and that connected me to my books. I loved everything about books. I loved that odd sensation of turning the final page, realizing the story had ended, and feeling that I was saying a last goodbye to a new friend.

-John William

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Just above Tommy’s face were the Maiden and the Troll, two of his oldest wall people. The troll lived in a cave deep in the woods. He was big (Tommy knew the troll was even bigger than his daddy, and if the troll told his daddy to sit down and shut up, he would in a second), and he looked scary, with his little eyes and crooked teeth like fangs, but he had a secret. The secret was that he wasn’t scary at all. He liked to read, and play chess by mail with a gnome from over by the closet wall, and he never killed anything. The troll was a good troll, but everyone judged him by his looks. And that, Tommy knew, was a mean thing to do, though everyone did it.The maiden was very beautiful. Even more beautiful than Tommy’s mommy. She had long blonde hair that fell in heavy curls to her waist, and big blue eyes, and she always smiled even though her family was poor. She came into the woods near the troll’s cave to get water from a spring, for her family. The spring bubbled out of Tommy’s wall right next to where his hand lay when he was asleep. Sometimes she only came and filled her jug and left. But other times she would sit awhile, and sing songs of love lost, and sailing ships, and the kings and queens of Elfland. And the troll, so hideous and so kind, would listen to her soft voice from the shadows just inside the entrance of his cave, which sat just below the shelf where Tommy kept his favorite toys and books.Tommy felt bad for the troll. He loved the maiden who came to his spring, but she would never love him. He knew from listening to his parents and the stuff they watched on television when he was supposed to be asleep that beautiful people didn’t love ugly people. Ugly people were either to laugh at or to be frightened of. That was how the whole world worked.Tommy rolled over on his side, just a small seven year old boy in tan cargo shorts and a plain white T-shirt. He let his eyes drift over the bedroom wall, which was lumpy in some places and just gone in others. There was a part of the wall down near the floor where he could see the yellow light of the naked bulb down in the basement, and sometimes he wondered what might live down there. Nothing good, of that he was sure.

-Michael Kanuckel

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Once I was asked be a seatmate on a trans-Pacific flight....what instruction he should give his fifteen-year-old daughters, who wanted to be a writer. [I said], "Tell your daughter three things." Tell her to read...Tell her to read whatever interests her, and protect her if someone declares what she's reading to be trash. No one can fathom what happens between a human being and written language. She may be paying attention to things in the words beyond anyone else's comprehension, things that feed her curiosity, her singular heart and mind. ...Second, I said, tell your daughter that she can learn a great deal about writing by reading and by studying books about grammar and the organization of ideas, but that if she wishes to write well she will have to become someone. She will have to discover her beliefs, and then speak to us from within those beliefs. If her prose doesn't come out of her belief, whatever that proves to be, she will only be passing along information, of which we are in no great need. So help her discover what she means. Finally, I said, tell your daughter to get out of town, and help her do that. I don't necessarily mean to travel to Kazakhstan, or wherever, but to learn another language, to live with people other than her own, to separate herself from the familiar. Then, when she returns, she will be better able to understand why she loves the familiar, and will give us a fresh sense of how fortunate we are to share these things. Read. Find out what you truly believe. Get away from the familiar. Every writer, I told him, will offer you thoughts about writing that are different, but these are three I trust. -- from "A Voice

-Barry López

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I had a bizarre rapport with this mirror and spent a lot of time gazing into the glass to see who was there. Sometimesit looked like me. At other times, I could see someone similar but different in the reflection. A few times, I caught the switch in mid-stare, my expression re-forming like melting rubber, the creases and features of my face softening or hardening until the mutation was complete. Jekyll to Hyde, or Hyde to Jekyll. I felt my inner core change at the same time. I would feel more confident or less confident; mature or childlike; freezing cold or sticky hot, a state that would drive Mum mad as I escaped to the bathroom where I would remain for two hours scrubbing my skin until it was raw. The change was triggered by different emotions: on hearing a particular piece of music; the sight of my father, the smell of his brand of aftershave. I would pick up a book with the certainty that I had not read it before and hear the words as I read them like an echo inside my head. Like Alice in the Lewis Carroll story, I slipped into the depths of the looking glass and couldn’t be sure if it was me standing there or an impostor, a lookalike.I felt fully awake most of the time, but sometimes while I was awake it felt as if I were dreaming. In this dream state I didn’t feel like me, the real me. I felt numb. My fingers prickled. My eyes in the mirror’s reflection were glazed like the eyes of a mannequin in a shop window, my colour, my shape, but without light or focus. These changes were described by Dr Purvis as mood swings and by Mother as floods, but I knew better. All teenagers are moody when it suits them. My Switches could take place when I was alone, transforming me from a bright sixteen-year-old doing her homework into a sobbing child curled on the bed staring at the wall. The weeping fit would pass and I would drag myself back to the mirror expecting to see a child version of myself. ‘Who are you?’ I’d ask. I could hear the words; it sounded like me but it wasn’t me. I’d watch my lips moving and say it again, ‘Who are you?

-Alice Jamieson

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