As children we read to escape — to enter fantasy worlds where a bespectacled boy can discover he’s a wizard or a brave girl can find a magical passage through a wardrobe. But we also read to find reflections of ourselves. “Matilda” was the first novel in which I, a shy, bookish child, saw myself. It didn’t matter that I was growing up on a farm in rural New Hampshire and she lived in an English village. I was her. She was me. I was right there beside her as she read alone in her room, sipping from a cup of hot chocolate. When “books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives,” I went with her, too.
Reader, you may ask this question; in fact, you must ask this question: Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea?
The answer is… yes. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Love is ridiculous.
But love is also wonderful. And powerful. And Despereaux’s love for the Princess Pea would prove, in time, to be all of these things: powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous.
What’s more delightful than an evening beside the fire with a nice bright lamp and a book, listening to the wind beating against the windows? I’m absolutely removed from the world at such times. The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I’m wandering in countries I can see every detail of — I’m playing a role in the story I’m reading. I actually feel I’m the characters — I live and breathe with them.
I do want to get married. It’s a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos — you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, “I feel like I should have one of these by now. I’ll take a thorny rose and a ‘MOM’ anchor, please. No, not that one — the big one.
LOST AND BOUND People explore a labyrinth of 250,000 second-hand and new books, entitled aMAZEme, at The Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall in London. (Photo: Tony Kyriacou / Rex Features via The Telegraph)
Why am I not there right now?
By rough estimate I’ve had more than 5,000 students since that first high school class. I’ve felt blessed. With all of them, from the brainiest third year law students on their way to six figure beginning salaries on K Street to 14-year-old illiterates locked up for hustling drugs, I emphasized one theme: Alternatives to violence exist and, if individuals and nations can organize themselves properly, nonviolent force is always stronger, more enduring, and assuredly more moral than violent force.
When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.
Growing up, sort of
Excerpt from The Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
“Grow up, Isabel.”
I circled the next puddle and said, “I’m going to let you in on a secret: People don’t grow up like they think they do.”
Rae sighed and said, “What are you talking about?”
“The whole grown-up thing is a myth. Whatever is wrong with you now will probably be wrong with you in twenty years.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me now,” Rae replied.
“If people really grew up, there would be no crime, no divorce, no Civil War reenactors. Think about it. Was Uncle Ray a grown-up? Does Dad always behave like a grown-up? It’s all bullshit. I can’t tell you what Mom’s been doing lately, but I will say, not grown up.”
“I miss Uncle Ray,” my sister said.
“Me, too,” I replied.
It had been a while since his name was mentioned. Silence washed over us as we reached the corner shop. I tried not to think of Uncle Ray as being gone forever. I just liked to imagine him on one really long Lost Weekend. I welcomed the distraction of choosing beer.
After Rae and I bought our provisions we strode back to Henry’s house on the rain-soaked sidewalk. I stomped in a puddle one more time to take Rae’s mind off our uncle. I could read from her sober expression that tears might surface if she let them.
“I asked you to stop that,” Rae said, dodging the splash after the fact.
“Sorry, I forgot,” I lightly replied.
“Henry’s a grown-up,” Rae said after a long pause.
I didn’t have any evidence to the contrary, so I let that one slide. “Maybe,” I said. “But my point is, it’s not like you think it will be, that one day you’ll wake up and realize that you’ve got things figured out. You never figure it out. Ever.”
“So is there any benefit to getting older?” Rae asked.
“Sure,” I said. “You can buy your own beer.”