Monday, December 11, 2006

childhood's end

I know it's boring to talk about the weather... But it's back up into the 40's here and even supposed to get into the 50's later this week. Wow.
I've been reading one of my brithday presents, "Lost" by Gregory Maguire (the guy who wrote "Wicked"). It's quite good, and I've always been kind of a sucker for fairy and folk tales (I adore the brothers Grimm to this day, and I miss my mom's Italian folktales book very much), and this book is kind of a story combined with nods to many of these tales. It's about an author writing a book (of course), and she talks a great deal about how what we read as children is a) very important, and b) sticks with us.
"The person who would become a lifelong reader should stumble upon very rich stuff first, early, and often. It lived within, a most agreeable kind of haunting."
I've been thinking back on my early reading. I characterized my reading life to my friend Carolyn last night as follows: Pioneer stuff and things my parents read to me (Oz, Narnia, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who I loved beyond measure for several years), Sci-fi and Fantasy and Horror (oh my. Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, the folk/fairy tales again, anthologies, and Stephen King), "serious" fiction in early college, and then theory and politically relevant stuff now. These also seem fairly clean-cut in retrospect, like there wasn't a lot of crossover (except I always had a thing for "serious" fiction, I think partly because it was my only form of bragging, like "oooh, look what I'm reading!" Plus it's great.). I wonder if that order means anything, and if what I learned first influences me to this day. Did Narnia and Oz fuel my (sometimes) obsession with folklore? When I was in Alaska, for example, how much of the inside of my head was thinking of "The Call of the Wild" and "Julie of the Wolves"?
If anybody else would care to let me know thoughts on this, or what they read as a child, I'd be very interested to hear it. I'd kind of like to go back and mix and match my periods, see if there is still allure to the things I've abandoned. And when I'm home for Christmas, I think I'll read me some Italian mythology.


Anonymous said...

The Golden Compass. That's all I have to say.


Anonymous said...

When I was young it was fantasy, fantasy, and nothing but fantasy novels. I still have dozens of them in storage that I can't yet part with.

(Favorites: Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Robert Jordan)

Nowadays it's serious stuff and nothing but. I do mix in the occasional novel (I think the last one was God of Small Things) and poetry (mostly because of Lauren), but it's mostly history, history, political theory, essays, more history.

But I feel like I could definitely derive the same amount of pleasure from fantasy novels now that I did when I was younger. Even though I enjoy the books I read now, I know that I read them partly out of a feeling of responsibility. If I could justify reading fantasy novels again, I wouldn't hesitate.

(And I think some of it might carry over into the fact that I read so much history. It's good stuff for research and all, but it also lets me have a good story, and I know I still enjoy that a lot.)

Thinking back on the transition, it seems that it was pretty clear-cut for me too, somewhere in High School. (Although thinking about it a little more carefully, I'm pretty sure there was one awesome period where I was reading Mercedes Laceky and V. I. Lenin at the same time.)

One other strand for me is language and linguistics books. Those definitely started when I got a Latin grammar book for a present. Once I found out that other languages could be totally different from English, I was fascinated and started reading about them as much as I could, and eventually wanted to be a linguist. This started around the beginning of High School also, so maybe it had something to do with my transition to 'serious' books.

-- Jesse