Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Old Friends

Recently on another blog was a picture of the writer's book shelf and on that shelf was a book by Mary Stewart. That took me back quite a few years to my high school days when I devoured everything by Mary Stewart: Madam, Will You Talk, Airs Above the Ground, Nine Coaches Waiting , So naturaly this brought about a wave of nostalgia and a visit to Amazon. I ordered 4 of Stewart's books and at the check-out was happy to see they counted as 4 for 3 and no shipping charge. I received one of the books yesterday: The Gabriel Hounds, set in Damascus. The original date of this book was 1967, so it will be interesting to see all the references to that area of the world compared to now. I believe I read all of her books up until the time she began writing the Merlin series, which I didn't care for at the time.

It will be fun to revisit all the wonderful European places she set her characters in. On the other hand, there is nothing like the first reading of a book which takes you on a journey and transports you to a whole world and experiences you have never seen or had before. The second reading is anticipatory - you know what the book is about, generally, even if it has been 40+ years since you read it, and you wonder if you will remember the first time, remember how you felt, remember even where you were when you read it. But the unknown is not there. (I remember when I read Tom Sawyer for the first time: I almost never figured out what Aunt Polly meant by saying "What is that truck?" Truck? I finally looked it up in the dictionary and it just means "mess. From Dictionary.com - Informal: Worthless goods; stuff or rubbish: "Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that truck?" (Mark Twain). So even Dictionary.com was impressed by Aunt Polly's use of the word, via MT! I digress...)

That's why I almost never re-read a book - the first magic is not there and there are so many other good books to read! I suppose I'm "at an age" now where I want to see if some of the magic is there in the old books. Some of the newer ones just don't have it, or maybe aging takes some of the shine off first discoveries. I also enjoy young adult books because while the writer doesn't talk down to the reader, there is still that innocence that is missing in some of the so-called best sellers.

Mama always had books for us or made it possible for access to books - the bookmobile came through on our dirt roads, even in some dire straits, so I've been surrounded by books as long as I can remember. I recall the first word I read was CAT. It was an amazing thing to comprehend a word on my own, around age five.
Words were important to our sixth grade teacher at Threets School - Mr. "Bear" Smith. I can't recall his first name, but the kids all called him "Bear," because of his size and authority. He was also the principal. He believed in words and word games - antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, reports on current events. The small school had a tiny library in what seems to me now a closet - it couldn't have been much bigger than that. I loved the times we could go to the library.

Thanks to Mama, Bear Smith, Mary Stewart, and quite a few others, my love of reading became a very important part of my life.
Oh, joy! The other books came in the mail this morning! My Brother Michael , The Moonspinners(which was later a movie starring Hayley Mills - I loved Hayley Mills and her British accent. She was also in "Pollyanna" and "This Summer Magic," two favorite "youth" movies of my early teens), and This Rough Magic . Now if I only had a solid week where I could just read, read, read... Like long ago summers sitting on Goobie's porch till the sun went out of the day and I couldn't see the words...

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