Sunday, October 2, 2011

The One Day Read by le0pard13 AKA Michael Alatorre

le0pard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs on family and the popular arts out of The City of the Angels. If you ask him, he'd say this about himself: 'Born in the 50s, grew up during the 60s, and survived the 70s.' The late baby-boomer (maybe I'm a Generation Joneser?) has wondered the later years with an unexpected IT job at a medical center well past a third decade now. Just don't ask him to explain it.

The One Day Read 
by le0pard13 AKA Michael Alatorre

The late author Michael Crichton, besides being a very successful writer with unique perspective, was one of the first progenitors of the hybrid genre known as the techno-thriller. In many ways, he laid the groundwork with that class of fiction, which I found fascinating in books as a teen (a period oh so long ago, it seems). Though I credit my mother for her influence in making me a reader of books, it was with Crichton and his early novels where I found some of my first tangible traction in really enjoying the experience of words on a page.

Yes, I read books in junior and senior high school. There was no way to get out of that (and Lord knows, I tried). Book reports were the accursed bane of my scholastic existence back then. Whatever title was part of the curriculum, no matter whatever junior or senior high school year I was in, had to be endured and trudged through. ‘Fun’ hadn’t entered the lexicon when it came to reading, at that point. For me, at that age, reading represented work. Whatever enjoyment came of it was solely reserved for when the assignment was over.

Or, so I thought back then. It seemed only a few of the assigned materials held much for me (or it could be better said, I didn’t hold much for the material). The irony of me saying, ‘it’s academic’ at that point, was not lost on me here. I’m sure I, and a couple of my school counselors, would have found where I ended up more than a bit startling, along with my undeveloped reading habits. Few things got through the hormone haze in my life at the time, not surprisingly. Through it all, there was one day in particular which changed my outlook with the written word. It remains a high point of my teen years, and an event that holds unique sway for me.

Michael Crichton wrote the first book I read – no that’s not right… consumed is better -- in a one-day period. I’ve come to believe for every avid reader out there, early in their genesis, they collided, or somehow merged with… hell, let’s just say plunged into, that one specific book. Like no other before it, this was the paper- or hardback that somehow ended up before your eyes and wouldn’t allow you a breath till the very last page was turned. For me, that moment came on a cool day in early 1970. And the work that became the first black hole readership experience was Mr. Crichton's debut novel (at least under his real name), The Andromeda Strain.

There have been others, but this one was my event horizon with such a book. I remember it fondly, still. The 70s had just begun, meaning the decade wouldn’t really truly suck till much later. And, I should have been at school that day, but wasn’t. I was home sick from high school, 10th grade, in fact. I’ll admit here and now, I probably should have been in class. I wasn’t feverish. Perhaps, I was just a tad sick-like. I lived at that time with my maternal grandmother, along with her youngest, my uncle. He was a reader, like his sister, my mother. But, in those days, he was a Book-of-the-Month club member when it was in good standing to be so (I’d even join that very same club later when I started working). So, there were always stacks of book in this house. And he, my uncle, was away at work…

I was bored to tears being home – of course, not enough to get me packing back to school, mind you. It’s almost an axiom that boredom and ‘teenager’ don’t mix well. Some of the worst ideas come from that… but I digress. So, with mi abuelita away for her monthly doctor’s appointment, I went looking for something (meaning anything other than school work) to peruse. When I got to my uncle’s shelves, it was this 1969 hardcover that caught my eye. Scanning the back cover sparked something… maybe it was the premise or the unknown that got to me, but the hook was in.

I started The Andromeda Strain around 10:30 that morning, and couldn’t believe the pace of it all (the book’s and my own). It was the combination of curiosity, fascination, and building suspense with the material that held me. Today, this type of thriller is a staple for readers, almost to the point of being formulaic. But back then? Readers hadn’t seen this come down the pike before. And when my grandmother returned that afternoon, all I remember was her brief touch on my head for a fever as she walked past and returned to her kitchen. I think I said hi, or something… but I didn’t look up. I finished the novel just after 11 PM that night.

I did take fitful breaks that day, but the damn thing kept pulling me back in. I’d put the book down for a moment, then found it back in my hands somehow. I swear, that’s the way it was… a day now so long ago. If my wife scrutinizes this, she's gonna complain that I'm being wistful once more. It’s a habit of mine. She’s the one who tagged me with having the “nostalgic gene” (something she says she does not possess). Luckily for me, I’ve managed to pass some of this down to my kids. My wife and I are long-time readers, and if our biggest complaint is making sure our children don’t stay up too late because they’re up with flashlights reading something compulsively good, then that’s the least of our problems.

So, my questions are:

1.            What book was it for you?

2.            When was it?



Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Michael - Welcome!! Great post!

This wasn't my first "One Day Read," but it was my most memorable. Herman Wouk's "Winds of War" in 1971.

I just could not put that book down. Not for anything. And I just kept looking at the clock thinking, "hmmm - gonna be tough getting up to go to work in the morning." Finally, I just decided the heck with going to work. I stayed up all night reading and was still reading at 8 a.m. the following morning. I called my boss and told him the truth. His only response was to ask if he could borrow the book when I finished. I finished it that day and took it to work with me the next day. George loved it, but he didn't miss any days from work because of it.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, my, there've been so many as I've been a voracious reader since I was seven. But GONE WITH THE WIND kept me up very late back in the Fifties and I read HAWAII in the backseat of the car all the way from Tampa to Atlanta (my mother and grandmother were driving me to my first year of college in 1960.)

Bobbi Mumm said...

Michael, thanks for bringing back lots of wonderful book memories. The James Clavell Hong Kong sagas, Tai Pan, Noble House, Gai-Jin were all those types of reads for me. Like Vicki, GWTW, would have been but I forced myself to read only 30 pages a day (as a teenager).

le0pard13 said...

Kaye: Thank you very much for inviting me to contribute something to your wonderful blog. And wow, that is one memorable one-day read. What a boss! Only another true reader would be so understanding.

Vicki & Bobbi: great memories! I remember the Michener & Clavell sagas very well (and the associated TV and movie adaptations of them, too). Thank you for your comments and recollections.

Einoti said...

Reading marathons for all of the mentioned! However, my first one-day read (which involved bribing my siblings to do my chores) was a horse and romance novel, Scarlet Royal.
I was probably in the third or fourth grade at the time and definitely did the light under the covers with my radar gun flashlight! Thanks for the great story....I loved Andromeda Strain and recall going into Hollywood for the movie

Naomi Johnson said...

I remember reading Andromeda Strain and loving it, and (being younger then and not so familiar with the way of the film world) so disappointed in the movie.

First one-day read? I honestly don't remember. Summers as a child, I chewed through books so quickly. And now I can't answer the question because a toddler is crawling into my lap.

le0pard13 said...

Einoti (cool name by the way): Radar gun flashlight!?! That's doing it in style ;-) Thanks.

Naomi: I think you and my daughter have chewing through books during the summer in common. I completely understand that toddler thing ;-). Thanks.

LJ Roberts said...

Love the post, Michael.

Because I've been a compulsive reader since childhood, I can't possibly remember my first one-day read.

That said, no too long ago, Patricia Wynn asked whether I'd review her latest book, the third in a series of historical mysteries. When I told her I really preferred to read the series in order but couldn't afford to buy all three books hardcover at that time, she offered them, she offered them to me for pittance, which I accepted.

The books arrived and looked interesting, but I put them on the side of my desk to be read....sometime. Here comes the slightly embarrassing part of the story. Several days later, on a Saturday morning, I picked the stack up to move but visited the, ah-um, facilities on the way. Whilst there, I opened the first book, just to get a sense of her writing.

That was it. The books never made it to the TBR shelves. I moved myself and the books to the living room sofa and by Sunday night, I had finished all three books and emailed Ms. Wynn asking when the next book would be out.

It is such a gift when one comes across a one-day read.

Jen Forbus said...

As always, this post is magnificent, Michael. You are so articulate!

I was always an avid reader. With the exception of my junior year in high school, I loved getting books to read in school. And I honestly can't remember my first one-day read.

I do remember distinct things like reading all of the Boxcar Children books in the third grade. My teacher brought her entire collection into the classroom and I read one right after the other during our assigned reading time. I remember checking out Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from my school library and falling in love with that book. Johnny Tremain was a favorite when I got a little older. I would venture to bet I read Are You There God It's Me Margaret in a Day. Not quite as hefty as your Crichton, but...

My mom would always get upset with me and tell me I should be outside playing. It wasn't that she discouraged reading, she actually instilled the love in me, but she worried I read too much. Is there such a thing?

Anyway, now I'm rambling. A beautiful post. Thank you so so much for sharing it. I do enjoy your stories!

Pop Culture Nerd said...

I love these posts in which I get a glimpse of a younger le0. I can't remember my first one-day book because I had many when I was a kid. I'd guess it was a Nancy Drew.

It's great that you and A. have passed on your passion to your children. I've seen them get excited about their new purchases in bookstores, which is such a wonderful thing. I'm not sure where I'd be if my parents hadn't taught me to love reading, but I'd probably be an idiot.

Christine said...

Another wonderful post, Michael! Like the others, I love reading your stories.

Until I was in my 30s, I was never a reader. I didn't really enjoy it because it was usually "required" reading for class. I also felt that I was a slow reader and thought it was cheating to skip the uninteresting or boring sections.'s only recently that I've given myself permission to stop reading a book altogether instead of forcing myself to finish one that's not holding my interest.

Because I started so late in life, there wasn't one "One Day Read". I was just devouring books, because I wanted to "catch up." *snort* Not enough hours in the day to do that, but I'm giving it my best shot! :) There was many a night when all of the sudden there'd be a throat cleared followed by my husband inquiring if there was a dinner plan for that night. Ha!

For the better part of my youngest sisters' elementary years (they are 18 & 20 yrs younger than I), my parents refused to have cable. I think that, in addition to my mother's own interest in reading fiction and non-fiction, are the biggest reasons that they started their love of reading earlier than I. And like your children, I love seeing how excited ALL of my nieces and nephews get about going to the bookstore and library to pick out books!

le0pard13 said...

LJ Roberts: it's no surprise the ah-um, facilities is also known as the 'reading room'. It must have been one great set of novels by the author. A gift, indeed. Thanks.

Jen: thank you very kindly for those words and special remembrances, my dear friend.

PCN: you and the word idiot will never belong in the same sentence... like ever. Thanks.

Christine: I love hearing about your reading experiences, especially the amount of catch-up you've done. And yes, witnessing the excitement of the young with reading never gets old. Thanks.

Rachel said...

What a lovely post! And a trip down memory lane is just what I'm into lately. :) However, like some of the commenters above, I can't remember my first One Day Read. Lifetime avid reader here so I have many One Day Reads and probably add new ones about every other month. I will share the dreaded "read til the wee hours (5am in this case) and still had to go to work" story. That was the Nanny Diaries. A book I didn't think I'd even finish I couldn't put down until the last page. I think that was about ten years ago now but I always remember it.

PS I love the Andromeda Strain!

le0pard13 said...

Thanks, Rachel. I must look up the 'Nannies Diaries', now (to see what drove that reaction). Great to see another fan of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN.