Friday, November 24, 2006

Why I Love Books
When I was a teenager, I discovered the joy of reading. Many of my writer-friends were voracious readers as children, but it wasn't until high school and even my college years that I began to truly love literature. My husband and I were talking at dinner tonight about people who have a hard time reading fiction because it's not true. But I find much truth about the human condition in a work of fiction. As a teen, I went through the normal teenage angst of wanting to fit in, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, etc. And somehow I found I learned more about myself and the people around me by reading works of fiction.

Take for example Hamlet. Hamlet's indecisiveness gets him into heaps of trouble. This is not good. It leads to murder, chaos and a pretty stinky situation by the end of the play. (I love, by the way, the Kenneth Branaugh version of the movie.) Shakespeare shows in this work of fiction that indecisiveness has disastrous results.

The thing I remember about reading when I was younger is that I found people who were like me in books. A teenager's worst fear is being the weirdo, and I found that I wasn't the weirdo simply by reading because there were others like me who had the same thoughts, the same motivations, whatever.

I am now reading Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus. (Thanks to mom for recommending it.) Margaret Wise Brown wrote Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny and many other children's classics. In some respects, she invented the children's picture book. Her writing is poetic and sparce and lyrical and she totally understands children. That's why I love her books. She was able to speak to children and understand their fears, needs, and desires. She helps the child reader know that someone understands them.

Leonard Marcus points out: "In The Little Fir Tree, a Christmas story, Margaret gave comforting substance to the fearfully intangible feelings of loneliness that all small children know: 'Always the little fir tree looked over at the big fir trees in the great dark forest. He wished he were part of the forest of part of something, instead of growing all alone out there, a little fir tree in a big empty world'" (20).

I think it's one of those small miracles when a writer can capture in words those vague feelings we all have. And somehow it makes me feel better that someone else understood enough to bother putting it into words.

And that's--at least in part--why I love books.

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