I don’t  remember when it was that I learned how to read. I don’t remember the teacher or my mom in that exact moment when they were passing on to me the greatest gift I was given. That magic nanosecond when the sounds for each letter come out together and make out one word and then the other and then you discovered a new world.

I do remember a “Complete Brothers Grimm Stories” book that made it to my hands at around 5 years old. It was thick, white and it fascinated me. Very few illustrations, but the ones it had, were so impressive, I remember forcing myself to read all those signs and letters to try to make out the story. Of course, I made my mother and my dedicated older sister, read my favorite stories over and over again, until I remembered the sequence of words by heart so at least I  could then pretend that I was reading by myself.

Then one day, all alone with that treasured book, looking at the (now horrid) images for “One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes”, I found myself reading the title and then the very first words and then….

I was lucky enough to have lived in a house where books were available and presented as essential objects by a mother who loves to tell stories, a newspaper and magazine junkie of a father and very curious brothers and sister.

The Encyclopedia obsessed me with all that information on kings and queens from other times and pictures of far away castles and maps of countries I dreamt of visiting someday.

By the time I was in high school, I was always in trouble. My parents called in by the nuns to discuss my daydreaming and distracting attitude. My unacceptable behavior both in class -my head always buried in some book that had nothing to do with Math or Science and around the school where I was usually seen wandering around the corridors, hiding in the locker-room so that I could read my paperback first edition of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” or in the school library, where I found biographies, philosophy, novels and plays (I have to admit to have stolen a couple…..).

I have smelled unthinkable smells when I read Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. I have cried tears of delight with A Hundred Years of Solitude. I have suffered fear and desolation with The Road.  I found myself in true lust developing some of Bukowski’s ideas….

I know what it feels like to be a girl in England a few centuries back thanks to Austen. The Pillars of Earth obsessed me and The Da Vinci Code made me wish for 48 hour days. Hemingway is my friend. Anais Nin is my goddess.  Cortazar an older brother. Pizarnik my Fairy Godmother and Borges a Teacher. The Great Gatsby is like eating some gourmet appetizer at 2 am after a night out.

I don’t think there are better definitions of love than the words Romeo and Juliet use, a better friend to share my jealousy with, than Othello, or my rage when I go through a marriage crisis,  than with Lady Macbeth….

Reading has made me who I am today. It has shaped the way I talk, the way I think and imagine as well as influenced what kind of actress, mother, friend or wife I became.  Books have fascinated me and have been my companions through life crisis, travels, long lines at the DMV or lonely coffee breaks. I collect books, I have books in my bathrooms, in my nightstand, in my car (I occasionally HAVE to read while on a red light) in my kitchen or in the baby’s stroller. I can remember having a book in my purse when I got married and on my bed as I was wheeled into the delivery room.

Reading relaxes me, it comforts me, it amuses me and helps me feel, think or connect to my and your humanity (which I usually take for granted). I see through a prism when I read and the world I think I know becomes many different ones.

This blog is the place I chose to share my special love for reading.

I hope you enjoy the ride.

Mariana Santangelo.-


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