I read on average about a book a week. Sometimes a particular book will take me three weeks to finish, and other times I devour three books a week, making a conscious choice to choose reading over all other activities. But mostly reading is just a natural part of existing for me. I read in bed at night, I read in the bathroom, I read while I eat or wait.
I’m not a book snob. I read pretty much anything but I think I’m particularly drawn to biographies and true crime. But I space that out with literary fiction, young adult fiction, pulp fiction, horror, how-to guides and non-fiction of all kinds. I’m addicted to reading because it adds layers to my world that I otherwise wouldn’t get to experience, and I read to understand all aspect of the world. The world, of course, usually means people. I’m not very good at making friends with people who aren’t already a lot like me, with vastly the same experiences, so I read to understand the people who inhabit the world that aren’t like me.
Since I love to read so much, writing came equally naturally to me. I thought it was just what people do. I didn’t think it required a particular talent or anything. Like most writers, I don’t think I’m too good at it so reading a lot of the time feels like masochism – all these people are such wonderful writers so why should anyone want to read mine. Wah, wah, right. But secretly I love that the world is so full of so many talented writers willing to share their unique experiences.
Because I’m never going to date Jim Morrison, that ultimate rock god who was gone in flash, but Judy Huddleston did. I’m currently reading her memoir Love Him Madly: An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison. It is the candid story of an 18 year old falling in love with the 25 year old singer in late 60’s Los Angeles. I’m so impressed with the way she captures the desperation of young, unrequited love. In order to paint a picture of Morrison she has to strip herself completely bare; all the stupid things she said and did to maintain a sexual relationship with a man that was just not that into her. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more true portrait of the feelings one go through as a young, insecure woman trying to figure out who she really is, looking for love and confirmation in all the wrong places.
But as degrading as some of the scenes are, you never feel like she is a victim which I think is equally important. She is a girl chasing what she wants despite pretty bad odds. She paints a picture of Jim that is actually not that flattering, but that’s in line with his overall image. The Lizard King, who could not be tied down by earthly things. Certainly not young girls, who are dime a dozen for him. To the modern reader he comes across chauvinistic and vain. And I love that the author acknowledges this, yet still remains vulnerable enough to describe her picture-perfect fantasies of what she imagined their life together could be, if only he would give into her and love her back. Because all young women at some point in their life have had these fantasies – about wrong men, about unattainable men. I do think there is a lot of truth to the male complaint that women are mostly attracted to ‘bad’ boys, the damaged and wounded. And especially artists, because if you can be loved by someone who creates beautiful things, how beautiful must that make you?
To be honest, I don’t know how Judy Huddleston managed to dig so deep and recall all these juvenile longings and write them into rich, detailed scenes. This is the reason I love a good biography because it transports you in time and place, and you can hang out with all your favorite people, long dead, and understand someone else’s human experience. And that brings us all a little bit closer.