When I first started to read, I was given a series of books at school with stories about traveling through magical lands, unlocking doorways with magical keys, and appearing abruptly in green fields with Mt. Fuji-like mountains in the distance. I was tiny, so the books seemed large to me, like the size of the Vermont Gazetteer, which they couldn’t possibly have been, and the illustrations were koda-chrome beautiful. I have no idea what those books were; I’ve never seen them again (no doubt they’re out of print), but I keenly remember the joy I found, proficient at reading and slipping into that world.
Isn’t that one of the great joys of reading? Not leaving this world, but unlocking doors with unexpected keys and going down deeper into our own unpredictable world?
We’ve hit a new reading phase at our house. The other night at dinner my older daughter read The New York Times review of Harper Lee’s book aloud, with much discussion, and the next day she checked out Go Set a Watchman from the library. What a pleasure to read with her last night, as she periodically lifted her eyes and said, “You won’t believe this, mom,” while the younger daughter ate grapes, deep in her own fairy book series.
I’m reading Shape of the Sky, so keenly well-written I’ve put in a few late nights. Here’s Shelagh Connor Shapiro’s line about a teenage boy: Within the song is both the pleasure and anger of being fifteen or sixteen or seventeen – the untapped potential of those years, and the yearning to be more than he is, to be in another place and time. And yet, to love where you are.