I could distinctly remember that I was seven when I pointed to a Goosebumps title at National Bookstore. Of course, this would have to be sometime in 1995 or early 1996. I’m not exactly sure if we already had a National Bookstore in Cabanatuan City back then. Still, if we did, I’m sure they didn’t have that many titles because the first time I saw such books was when I tagged along with my dad to Metro Manila on a trip on one of his random trips as a dean of an old college. I was sure it was after dinner. My dad was an ardent book collector himself. So while he brought home Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that night, I bought myself three Give Yourself Goosebumps titles—Toy Terror, Attack of the Beastly Baby-Sitter, and Little Comic Shop of Horrors. And since these books cost a lot of money, I would have to read them repeatedly because I couldn’t ask for more books that easily. Luckily, R.L. Stine made sure that his Give Yourself Goosebumps series offered a lot of entertainment value to kids, mainly because you had to make choices as you read the series.
Sometimes the choices you made as a reader resulted in a good ending, with the protagonist escaping the monster or safely getting home. Other times, it’s a wrong choice, and you got killed or eaten. Indeed, these are dark themes for kid’s books, but hey—that’s how R.L. Stine rolled. I owe my journey into words and literature to authors like R.L. Stine, who made sure that kids felt right at home with ghoulish and ghastly. If I didn’t feel alright as a freak at eight or nine, I probably wouldn’t have tried writing—on my own. Of course, you have to be a little insane, a little off your rocker, to try writing. I think I still haven’t broken the rocker, at least not yet.
I remember an interview with R.L. Stine some years back—I’m not sure if I read it or watched it online, but what he said was, he too was weird when he was a kid, and he used this ‘weirdness’ as inspiration for writing. Like other writers, he doesn’t have a good idea of how he makes his books—he just knows. And the world will forever be thankful that he did.
I only recently understood why my mother would bring home newspapers, Women’s Magazine,and “song hits” home almost every week. She would read them cursorily, but perhaps out of exhaustion, she would simply leave them in the living room for me to pick up after glancing at a few pages. I think I spent more time reading magazines like Women’s Journal more than I watched television. I would read the columns and the (sometimes erotic) stories at the end of each issue. She didn’t mind me reading, but I would often be told off for reading all these other materials at home instead of my textbooks
I honestly hated reading my school textbooks. They sucked—big time. If I could repeat my childhood years, I would change nothing. I would still avoid reading my school textbooks. Hell, I would probably throw them away and read some more Time and Reader’s Digest instead. The only books that ever captured my attention were my reading and language books. I would read all the poems, essays, and stories for an entire year in about two sittings. Then I would be bored insane in class. So, naturally, I got good marks in Language and Reading, but not so much in Pagbasa and Wika, because boy, the textbooks for those subjects in primary school left very little to desire.
Despite my mother’s insistence that I should be a good boy and just get on with the program of patiently reading my school textbooks, I knew that she knew that I was different. The fact that she bought me “song hits” when she saw Wolfgang in it was a testament that she wanted to connect, however distantly, to her youngest. And for these gestures, I am also grateful. And though in my adulthood, few completely understand me, I too am thankful for well-meaning gestures and reassurances from co-writers, readers and all the other folks I meet along the way. I see and hear all of you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am an ardent supported of unfettered, early reading. I believe that reading is much like building an entire world with your hands. Use any material to your disposal to make your planet of literature robust and capable of taking the strain of your realities. I’m not sure if I would have survived childhood and adulthood without my books, and the characters and ideas contained within them. And I’d like to think that even the laziest reader will find solace in the words on the page. Just keep reading. Just keep reading.
Marius D. Carlos, Jr.
Marius D. Carlos, Jr. is a storyteller, essayist, and journalist. He is an independent researcher focused on transnational capitalism, neocolonialism, empire, and pop culture. Contact him for writing projects. Visit Marius’ profile on Minds, MeWe, and Twitter. Email Marius: firstname.lastname@example.org.