This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Thoughts on reading Enid Blyton's First Term at Malory Towers

I might have read Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series when I was a child. I might have thoroughly loved it and it might have led me to other Blyton books which would probably have led, as reading books does tend to do, to discovering other authors who, as it stands now, have gone unread.

I might have, but I didn't and I find it sad. This is not because I didn't read as a child, but because I can see both my reading life and the rest of life being made richer in the process. There's a world of authors out there for children but when you're nine years old you don't scour libraries worldwide to make sure you're not missing out on anybody's good books. So, this British writer, whom I know that the little Jemima would have adored, has only been discovered and enjoyed in later life, when things are much different for the reader.

Taking in a book, experiencing and processing it, is quite different from childhood to adulthood. I'm not quite as absorbed in boarding school tales today as I would have been as a ten year old. But, then? Boy, would I ever have been! Still, I'm able to appreciate (with a slightly saddened heart) what I would have loved at that age.

My reading life as a child seems to have run like a parallel universe to my actual life. It wasn't exactly me driving that yellow convertible in River Heights and solving mysteries with Bess and George, or me frustrated with my older sister Beezus and being babysat and fed graham crackers and apple juice with annoying Willa Jean. Nonetheless, Nancy Drew and Ramona Quimby hung around me, affected my views on the world, and helped inform my fantasy life. That was my reading life. But there was room for more. So, I know Enid Blyton's Darrell Rivers, student at the idyllic Malory Towers, would have had a place there, as well. When I find books like the Malory Towers series, then, I think to myself, there's my lost reading life. There are all the books that went unread and could have filled up a second childhood of sitting on the porch or the couch at the bay windows on a sunny afternoon with my small nose pointed toward the page.

Linguists talk about a critical age at which language must be learned by children or it will not be learned properly or at all. From my experience I'd dare to suggest that there's a critical age for experiencing the transporting nature of stories. If you don't take the trip that books offer at that moment in life, you've declined ever taking quite the same journey.

But, alas, that's over and what can be done, really? To find that there are so many good books in the world that no child could possibly ever read them all is an embarrassment of wealth. So I only scraped the surface of what was out there? So what? There's a reward in itself to being a grown-up who lingers on the thought of lost reading lives, understands what she did have and wonders about what she could have had.

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