Thursday, March 27, 2008

Favorite Kind of Squash?

I have three favorite books. The Hobbit is one. Has been for nigh on a decade and I ain't hardly ever wavered in m'loyalty. Starship Troopers a second, and of my favorite books this is the only one I've only read once. In itself peculiar, because the last time I picked it up I didn't get very far into it, yet I still consider it one of my favorites. Then Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel is the third.

All these books have one thing in common, and that's the feeling I got as I read them. Not after, but in the process of actually beginning and middling and ending them. The feeling of "this is really something special. I'll never forget this."

The first time I read The Hobbit.... I must have been nine. Maybe ten or eleven. I almost have not a single memory of it. I was given a nice--and terribly durable--copy of it for some special occasion, and it's lasted me all that time without a single change. I don't remember exactly what I was thinking about at the time, but I remember what I was in to. Power Rangers. Martial arts, kicking people, punching people. So I'm compelled to wonder: what mystical energy made this story about a scared, short, furry footed, unwilling burglar so wonderful? I can't say. I just know it's on the faves list.

I read Starship Troopers maybe five, four or five, years after that. Once again, I was given a copy for a gift, I think. At the time, I'd been reading a lot of YAs. Animorphs was a great series, folks. And I read YAs about Jedi. Books on a monthly release schedule. Not a lot of depth, just a lot of fast, blatant, excitement.

Starship Troopers, the book anyway, isn't a lot of fast, isn't a lot of blatant, isn't a lot of shallow. It's a lot of gradual, it's a lot of subtle, it's a lot of deep. It's almost only deep-subtle. How did THIS book possibly engage me? The answer's some where, I'm sure. Go find Freud dude.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel wormed a funny course. I thought it was, anyway. I was bored. I wanted something to read. I took to going to the library, starting at the top left, opening the books and reading the first paragraph, and slamming the book shut. If I liked that first paragraph, I slammed it shut after the second paragraph, which I generally didn't like.

JS&MN took up a lot of space on that shelf. Nice shade of brown. I didn't really like that first paragraph. It seemed to me not to have all the things a first paragraph needs to be engaging. I kept thinking that for a few days, then went back to check if I was right. I thought I was, but I figured, to make a thorough study, I should take it home with me and check again later.

I read almost half of it. But it proved bulky, and I got it on CD and started again at the beginning, then got to the end. Then got it again a couple months later and started over.

This was a few months ago. These days, I like quick. I like direct. I like TV.... While I think JS&MN would make a good BBC Masterpiece Theater, I don't think it's very TV, or quick, or direct.

So I guess I'm concluding that the word "favorite" means that which changes your mind.... Or maybe that what we think we like is our way of lying to ourselves about reality. Or maybe I'm just concluding that nothing makes sense.

There you go: life is perfect, because nothing makes sense.

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