Here's what I used to wonder: When will we get there? Oh when?! To when our child, whose questing mind and intense reading habits have brought her far and wide, through the dangerous jungle of the Olsen twins, past the darling byways of nice-girls-of-history fiction, with some long dalliances in various encyclopedia, begins to read…adult fiction?
I mean, she's read a lot of books that are obviously intended for adults. Like the Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan. And Monty Python's All the Words. And Let's Panic About Babies.
But these books weren't novels. There have been some adult novels: Kurt Vonnegut, that friend to the alienated, has been a benevolent guardian angel of sorts. But this…well, here's what happened.
A friend was sleeping over. At dinner they started talking about…I don't even remember what it was. Something that did not grip me. Which as we all know is a risk when you dine with a 9-year-old and two 12-year-olds. But I got a bit tired, and so I decided to keep myself interested I would talk about the book that I was reading—American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. I wanted her to identify one of the gods I wasn't certain of.
See, part of what goes on in it is the emergence of all these gods of myth, and Diana knows about that stuff. A lot about it. So when I said, "There's this guy with one eye and two ravens…" she said "Odin," before I finished the sentence. And when I said, "There's this lady in a sari with a necklace of skulls…" she said "Kali!" And so on. And then she said, "I HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK."
"But it's a book for grown-ups."
"I DON'T CARE."
Hmm. See, since she turned 10 or so, we've had the policy that anything on our bookshelves she wants to read she can. I talked it over with a smart friend, who is a writer, who said that for him one of the shining inspirations of his life was his parents' bookshelf, and he was allowed to read anything he wanted, and it was great for him. It made the world a more enthralling place.
But maybe his parents read books without any sex in them?
It's odd, to me, anyhow, that that's what worries me. It's counter to what I intend to believe in. In my theoretical mind, reading about destroying people is more of a concern than is reading about them having sex with each other. But ever since I said that, every time I read a sexual scene, I get nervous. Nervous of what? I don't know.
This morning I left the book (by mistake, I swear it) in the doctor's office. So in a way, it's out of my hands.
But I want to finish it. I'll get another copy. And then what?
When I was 12 I went to sleepaway camp and we passed around a pornographic magazine with intense step-by-step instructions for various acts. My friend read The Exorcist (which still scares the crap out of her). This isn't like those. This could be really amazing and interesting and inspiring for her.