redemption song

me, talking

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Is there anything better than finding That One Book from your earlier literate days? I must have read UK Le Guin's A Fisherman of the Inland Sea when I was in middle school; I almost definitely got it from the musty, overcrowded town library. I remember reading in the upstairs bathroom of my house, the room with the best light, in the broad ceramic step of the huge, unusable bathtub. I also remember marching downstairs to confront my mother with some of the uglier ideas in the book; it was not a gentle read. I remember being profoundly distressed by her total lack of reaction.

Lately books I read as a child pop into my head. I will be folding clothes or walking somewhere or sitting on the porch (or plopped in front of the computer in a stuporous blob, let's be honest here Alex) and I'll suddenly remember some plot point from something that I read when I was eight or nine. Some books that I read once were seared into my brain (Louis Lowry's Children of the Dust, which I kept trying and trying not to read), some books I read constantly (Ender's Game, my copy of which is decomposing). I don't like admitting, even retrospectively, that I even had a reading level, but it is fun to go back to books I gave up then and see what they look like now. I get really interested in how what I could read and understand sometimes indicate real developmental changes. For example, it took me forever to be able to cope with unreliable narrators. Moral ambiguity and mistakes - as well as clearly cut good/evil lines - were the bane of my literary existance. (see for example Dune and its sequels, which I finished for the first time this year). I just finished Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials for the second or third time, and while it is labelled a children's book, and I know plenty of children who love it, the absence of good/evil tropes would have made me nuts as a kid.

It's nice to know that I can change my thinking, though, that I can develop new intellectual capacities that make what was previously incomprehensible accessible and interesting. I used to worry when I was a very young child that I would never develop analytical skills, never be able to disagree with an author, and never be able to form my own opinion. I seem to be doing okay, especially with the opinions. That's all.



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