We just went away to the beach for a few days, for the first time ever, to Puerto Rico where I didn't think we would be happening by any libraries or bookstores. We weren't going for long, and didn't have a whole lot of packing room, so when we were frantically running around the night before (yes, that's how we do it) I made the rule: 1 book per girl per day.
And then I got to see.
Of course, being the small, particular people they are (and also being without wallets with which to procure themselves new books) they brought books they had read before. Here's what went:
Chestnut: The Long Winter, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Dancing Shoes, and The Thirteen Clocks. (Why only 4? No one knows. A secretive smile was the only response.)
Diana: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm; The Necromancer: The Secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel; Avalon Web of Magic: Song of the Unicorns; All Just Glass; and one of either Fruits Basket or Fablehaven—I'm not certain.
I apologize for the minutiae-ish-ness of this post, and what makes it worse is that I can't quite articulate why these lists are both fascinating and impenetrable to me. It's as though the books chosen are some sort of coded representation of who they are, and who they are going to become. Like that old Tom Robbins personality test: who's your favorite Beatle? Except more internal, more telling, more like watching someone build the basis of their influences. I think of Flannery O'Connor, saying that what really made her as a writer wasn't all the books she read in school but Edgar Allen Poe, Tales of the Mysterious and the Macabre (or something along those lines). It's not that I'm always so interested in personality formation, exactly; it's more that the way this works within and along with fiction is fascinating to me. What our imaginations seek, or something.
I brought Gryphon by Charles Baxter and An Ordinary Man by Mona Simpson. I ended up interspersing the Baxter with The Associate, which was in the place we rented, sand in its pages (yes, John Grisham. And a more alarmingly sexist and lackadaisical performance I hope never to witness). And what do those books say about me? That I'm schizophrenic and lazy most likely. But it's not the same, is it, because my imagination and I are already formed. I remember hearing John Barth read once, and he talked about reading Borges when he was in his thirties, and what an unexpected joy it was reading something that spoke to him so deeply when he thought he was already formed as a writer.
It's hot here today, and I can see summer stretching before me. I so hope that it's a summer of books that do what these ones did for the girls: provide an entire enclosed alternative universe. Any suggestions?