Tuesday, January 17, 2006

those treasured volumes, second part

Still in the realm of childhood favorites:

The Book of Revelations (yes, from the Bible). I spent my playground time in my 11th year pondering this book, in my tiny New Testament and Psalms. I had been told that all the books in the Bible were true, to be taken literally, the word of God. I was a literal minded if somewhat fey child. This book puzzled me extremely. I read the rest of the Bible as well, Old and New Testaments. I suspect the language, if not the meaning, steeped deeply into me.

and yes, I did love Nancy Drew. What can I say? My taste was, and is, very undiscrimating.

Gene Straton Porter--ah, what was that book called? The Girl of the Limberlost, I think; it was the second of the Limberlost books, steeped in swamplands, melodrama, struggle, and--moths. My copy came to me from my grandmother's shelves.

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (and all her work, eventually). Given me by my great aunt (who, by the by, had led a scandalous and interesting life in her youth, before settling into what seemed dour age). In my childhood circle of friends from say age 10 to 14 we always tried to determine which of the four sisters we wanted to be (I wanted to be both Jo, who was, after all, a writer, and Amy, who was pretty and got to marry Laurie. No one I ever met wanted to be Meg, the good older sister who got married and had babies. And darling Beth died...). I still reread Alcott in moments of self indulgence. Alas, my daughter and her friends found Louisa May unbearably oldfashioned.

Childhood blends imperceptively into adulthood; many of my favorites of the past years are actually children's books, discovered as I sought books for my own children--one of the blessings of parenting. And many of my childhood favorites were supposedly adult fare. At one point--I was, I think, 11 or 12--my mother interceded with the librarian at the tiny military library. Librarian had been scandalized by my checking out piles and piles of adult historicals---Thomas Costain and his ilk, and lesser known ones that these days would have shiny gold letters on them and ladies with clothes perilously close to falling off their heaving bosoms. Dear mother wrote, in her Spenserian hand, "My daugher may check out any book she pleases, with my full permission". There were certain perils to this liberality: when I read Lady Chatterly's Lover at 12 or 13 I wondered if people always ran about in the rain and twined forgetmenots in their pubic hair after sex. Since I was then living in the high desert it appeared the adults around me must be very deprived: it hardly ever rained there.

More to come...


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