My earliest childhood memory is of shoplifting from the local Roger Wilco grocery store when I was four years old. I don't think I even asked my mother to buy the book for me. Driving home from shopping, she glanced in the rear-view mirror and discovered me reading my stolen copy of The Little Pony.
This was only the beginning.
My reading rap sheet from childhood included the above-mentioned shoplifting incident, as well as an accusation of "criminal mischief," though charges were never filed. I'm sure there's a wanted poster of my 8-year-old self still kicking around the Fritz Park Branch of the Dallas Public Library. In my defense, I was fighting a perceived injustice: the oppression of authors condemned to the bottom shelf based solely on the alphabetization of their last names. Each week during my library visit, I would systematically move a bottom shelf author to the top shelf: Zolotow, Seuss, Young -- Power to the People!
My teen years are a blur of loitering and prowling, in libraries, bookstores, and books themselves. And there may have been some trespassing along the way. (The statute of limitations hasn't expired though, so I'll leave it at that.)
I'd like to say that my criminal history ended with childhood, as my juvie record closed with a thud, but it didn't:
• Distracted Driving: Failing to give full time and attention to the operation of a vehicle. I confess that I couldn't put Let the Great World Spin down even for a minute; I read it before I went to bed, as soon as I woke up, and at every red light between my house and work.
• Stalking. Criminal activity involving the repeated following and harassing of another person. I would like to publicly apologize to Jonathan Lethem for following him around a book convention, trying to get up the nerve to talk to him. I had just read the weird and wonderful Girl in Landscape (a sci-fi Lolita!) and the brilliant National Book Award winner Motherless Brooklyn. I would also like to apologize to Leonard Mlodinow who wrote the lovely hybrid of physics and inspiration, Feynman's Rainbow. Some might feel that I "aggressively" approached Mr. Mlodinow at an event when I publicly professed my undying love for his book. (His wife did appear to pull him closer.) Oh, and Michael Cunningham. Sorry, Michael. Cunningham wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Hours, a Pulitzer prize-winning jewel of a novel that I've memorized whole passages of. All I'll say about that episode is that after I walked away I heard my colleague say, "She's not usually like that."
I could grow defensive. I could counter with the violations that books have committed against me. The theft of time and money they've stolen from me over a lifetime. The aiding and abetting of my own writing. The disorderly conduct. But I take responsibility and plead guilty on all counts. And I hope, dear readers, that as a jury of my peers you understand that these crimes of passion have been nothing more than literary indiscretions. If I must serve time for my crimes, I respectfully request solitary confinement. At least it will give me time to catch up on my reading.