I end up talking about books quite a bit. I read a lot. I am known for reading a lot. I have a critical, interested mind. It gets me into (the good kind of) trouble a lot. I am inquisitive; perpetually so, and this is well-known. If you were to ask those who have been in more than one class with me the phrase which I utilize the most often, they would most likely answer that I tend to ask questions beginning with the phrase, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that I read somewhere that ——“. My parents could have done much worse than having a daughter with that type of reputation.
I wouldn’t call myself a literary snob, but if you do it won’t hurt my feelings by any means. I will say that if I am asked about having read this or that book, if said book is the book which “everyone has read,” this is the only time that I ever feel a bit potentially ill at ease. You see, I don’t often read that stuff. I don’t feel bad about it, but it’s hard to know how to voice that and not be rude. I tend to feel this way: We (humans) have a finite amount of days here. Is the latest book about Harry Potter or Sookie Stackhouse going to shape my mind; is it going to better my soul? I truly don’t think so. Those two questions are my litmus test. Before you think I only sit around reading Kierkegaard with the hand I hold my teacup with pointing a pinky high in the air, I do read fiction. I think Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is masterful. I think The Velveteen Rabbit not only meets but supercedes the aforementioned litmus test I have for books. I cannot get through it without the kind of crying you don’t want to do, under any circumstances, in a public place. The type of crying that it causes is not [at least for me] the “I think I need a tissue type,” but the type where your face is the color of cranberry sauce.
Those two books by Cleary and Williams shaped me when I was a young girl, and they still poke at particular places in me, serving to remind me that each one of us needs to be loved and needs to give love; that the world is both a magical and a nonsensical place, and that we never entirely finish growing up. I can’t say for sure that no one ever had some magical revelation from the sugar-coated scrap that I refuse to read. I think it is shameful that so many people read it when so many valuable works of what I deem literature proper sit on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores, but that’s just my opinion. I only wonder why this is one of the few things I struggle with saying unabashedly. Perhaps in the end it is all in the way I have been framing it, so let me try it another way. As for me and the my own life journey, what I have thus far needed to learn has not led me to books such as those mentioned above. As Virginia Woolf once said,
Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground. Let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.