Rebel With a Clause

Reading, writing and the pursuit of nobility
Illustration by Lindsey Masterson

Like most people, I didn’t fall in love with literature in English class.

Well, that’s a lie — I did, kind of, but not under the harsh glare of my teacher or her carefully articulated and militantly regimented syllabus.

No. I fell in love under my desk.

I can’t tell you how much trouble I’ve gotten in, from detention to confiscated books to my father grounding me from reading when I neglected sleep, food and homework in favor of Harry Potter.

It happened again years later, when the Twilight series hit the shelves.

Yeah, I was one of those.

It wasn’t like I was reading erotica or manifestos. Under the desks of English classrooms I became intimate with Palahniuk, Hurston, Socrates, Asimov and, my favorite, Steinbeck. All under my teachers’ very noses.

I read by flashlight. I read by candlelight. I read by the flickering lights of my parents’ late night television programs.

I read slumped under desks and stooped over cash registers and curled on the floors of libraries and bookstores.

I have been praised and punished and pacified through reading. I have made countless friends and enemies, felt pain and love my mortal life will never know, learned how to fish and sword-fight and ignite fire.

As the old cliché goes, I have lived a thousand lives. And yet people are always pleasantly and inexplicably surprised when I tell them, “Yeah, I like to read.” As if “like” covers it.

Why do people think that reading is some dying, old-world comfort?

Literature is a more renowned art than ever before.

We’re investing in the preservation of our predecessors and pushing for the discovery and inclusion of their lesser-known contemporaries.

Book sales have increased every year since 2013, and independent publishers and bookstores are popping up eagerly to revel in the market.

And in this new age of voracious readers, we’re lucky enough to share a city with one of the best creative writing programs in the country.

Not to brag or anything.

A fair warning, or perhaps some advice: Not all good readers become good writers, but all good writers are even better readers.

These busy days I’m writing thousands of words every month: some for school, some for work and some for me, but I still make time to read a few books a week … and sometimes one or two of those aren’t even for class.

(In fact, my reading ticks have blended into my writing ticks.) Old habits die hard — I write more comfortably squeezed under my desk than I do spread out on top of it.

The library might be a distracting place for some to work, with its dusty pages and hushed whispers of readers young and old, but when I write there I’m filled with the hope that one day my books might too be on those shelves.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a librarian.

People would make a face and ask me why, and I had a sage response always at the ready: The preservation of knowledge is the noble pursuit.

These days, though, I’ve set my sights on publishing.

If we’re going to preserve literature, we need to keep producing it. Plus, I’ve always been an enabler.

Here’s to the revelers, the readers and the rebels.

May you always have the courage to read under your desk — and, should your book get confiscated, the foresight to carry a backup in your bag.

Happy reading.


Natalie Kazmin is a receptionist at Rowland Publishing, owner of Tallahassee Magazine. She graduates in December — as she says, not to brag or anything — with a degree in creative writing from Florida State University.

Categories: Books, Opinion