This week I am excited to welcome writer, Nancy Deville to the blog. Thanks to her publicist, Michelle Tennant Nicholson, for answering my request on Blogger Link Up.
ESCAPE INTO READING
By Nancy Deville
As a child, I spent a lot of time escaping into books because as Tolstoy so aptly put it, “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” and my family hid from their misery by reading. I guess you could say that it was an unhappy accident, ha!
The book that stands out for me the most was one I read in the third grade about a little boy who becomes an ant and is adopted by ants—which back then was as thrilling as watching the Avatar infiltrate the Na’vis and learn their ways. I don’t remember the name of the book but I see from Googling that a rendition of that theme was used as the children’s film “Ant Bully” with Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, and Meryl Streep, though it was not the same story. When I finished a book as a child, I always cried at the end. Not because the ending was sad necessarily but because I was so sorry that the book was over. This is rarely case anymore. J.D. Salinger said, “There are no writers anymore. Only book selling louts and big mouths.” That kind of stung, because he was probably talking about me. Plus I don’t really agree with Salinger, even though I think that the publishing “business” has forced writers to commercialize. I probably don’t get misty as much at the end of novels because I’ve spent too many years reading nonfiction and I simply need to broaden my knowledge of contemporary fiction writers. Another thing on my list.
But back to my childhood.
Long before reaching high school I was a terrible student and along the way developed a really bad habit of reading. I went to high school in Japan on a military base. The fact that I was flunking wasn’t really on my mind. I’d mentally shut out all the kids who were on their way to college with stellar futures ahead of them, and instead was systematically reading my way through the school library as a way to tamp down the angst. There was John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, The Grapes of Wrath. He took one title from Shakespeare, The Winter of Our Discontent, which I appropriated to define my seventeenth year. (Youth is definitely wasted on the young.) I loved Pearl Buck’s beautiful sentences. I found Rabbit Run disturbing with all of John Updike’s graphic bodily-functional-sexual aberrancies. Then there was the Shinjuku English bookstore for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and of course Herman Hesse’s Siddartha and Naricissus and Goldman. I fell into the worlds of Lawrence Durrell, D.H. Lawrence, Herman Wouk, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving Stone, Leon Uris, J.D. Salinger, James Michener, Henry Miller, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Harold Robbins, Gore Vidal. When I read Gone with the Wind my mother let me stay home from school to finish it. Soon afterwards, my sister and I went to see David O. Selznick’s interpretation of the story of the parallels of Scarlett O’Hara’s life to the crumbling of the Southern culture in a Tokyo theater with the adjunct Japanese soundtrack of farting, burping, slurping, and coughing. I read so much that my history teacher finally told me he wouldn’t give me a grade until I stopped reading in his class. Then he gave me the D I’d earned.
To address my “falling” hair, as she put it, Grandma immediately sent me several books by Adele Davis, Let’s Get Well, Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, Let’s Cook it Right. I read them cover-to-cover, and afterwards was extremely paranoid about Vitamin C escaping my lettuce before I could get it home from the market.
My Grandma’s cooking was a compilation of her Polish roots and her research into healthy eating (Adele Davis and others). She made homemade noodles and braided bread, dumplings, cucumber and dill salads, beets, chicken soup, pork chops, cabbage rolls, pot roasts with carrots, crepe suzettes with cottage cheese and homemade strawberry jam. I’d been living abroad in Japan, India, Spain, and then Switzerland for almost seven years by the time I returned to the States. The combined influences of Grandma, Adele Davis, and the exposure to other cultures’ real food diets defined my views on food, which ultimately led me to write health books to share what I’d learned. Over twelve years I established a voice in the real food movement, something I’m extremely proud of. At the same time, I never really wanted to just be a health book writer. My dream was always to do what the novelists did for me, which was to provide an escape, and to inspire thought. Novels like The Jungle and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, even The Little Prince instilled in me the desire to write a novel of social significance, which I think novelists need to do at least once in their career. In Karma, I took a subject that is not acceptable dinner table conversation and put a human face on it. A lot of publishers passed on Karma with the comment, “We don’t read manuscripts about sex trafficking.” Now that I’ve self published Karma, I’m beginning to think that editors misread what readers want to read about. And that definitely makes me tear up.
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