It’s been a while, I know.
Originally, I wanted to post about forthcoming book events that I had (there was a signing back in March, and a talk at my alma mater), but in preparing myself for those I neglected to actually write anything. Then I thought I might post a reflection on the events, a ‘thanks’ to everyone who came out and showed their love and support and helped the events to actually happen, but time slid away from me again there. But enough of my excuses.
It’s May. Spring is fully under way, and my semester is at a close. I’m on the precipice of being able to spend quiet days at my desk with the window open and a cup of tea (or beer, depending on the time of day) as I write. Very much looking forward to that.
The title of this post isn’t just a commentary on how long I’ve been silent. Amid everything else, I’ve been diligently working on the reading challenge that I posted on my Facebook page back in January (12 of 23 done already), and one of the categories is “A book from your childhood.” I decided to knock this off the list by grabbing Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, which always tops my list of favorites, but which I hadn’t read since middle school. My copy is an old paperback; the cover is worn and white around the edges, the spine has a number of heavy creases in it, and the first few pages are in serious danger of falling out. It’s a book that’s clearly well-loved, and was read and reread and skimmed through over and over long before I picked it up a few weeks ago.
I was expecting a strong nostalgia factor from the experience, but I was unprepared for the surge of feeling that this book provoked in me. I won’t resort to cliches and claim that it made me feel like a kid again, because that’s not quite accurate. Rereading the novel provided me instead with a profound clarity; as I revisited the world of daemons and Dust, I was--as an adult with a full understanding of the philosophical ideas that Pullman is presenting--able to see how my own nascent adolescence had been impacted by his words. Pullman’s trilogy is a song of praise to free will, free thought, and free expression, a manifesto to peace and knowledge and freedom and the idea that no one, be they man or angel, has the right to impose his will on anyone else. These ideas spoke to me as a child, and in ways that I couldn’t fully appreciate at the time, but they wormed their way into my brain and stayed there, working their magic.
I can’t worship Pullman as a hero; based on everything that I’ve read by and about him, I think the thought of someone idolizing him would irritate him. It flies in the face of everything he’s expressing in His Dark Materials. If I ever have the good fortune to meet him in person, all I can do is shake his hand and thank him. No worship, no adoration, just respect and appreciation. I think he’d approve of that.
I like to believe (or perhaps ‘hope’ is more accurate) that everyone has a book that’s had a profound impact on them, even if, like me, they can only appreciate it in hindsight. If, as you were reading this, something sprang to mind immediately, leave a comment and let me know. I’m always looking for book recommendations.