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I saw a great meme on Facebook earlier this week: What books mesmerized you as a ten-year-old? The answers were funny and insightful and I brainstormed my own answers.
Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew. Ramona the Pest (the world lost Beverly Cleary just two months ago). Happy, wholesome reading.
But is that really what I was reading? As I’ve said many times, I’ve been accused of “remembering better” (i.e., in a more entertaining way, not necessarily more accurate, which is a nice way of saying I make stuff up for a living). To be fair, I can’t say which books I read at 10 versus 11 or 12 or 13. It was, after all, nearly a half-century ago.
I do know I was quite precocious (aka, nerdy before nerdy was cool and not something that helped on the path to public school popularity). As a kid growing up in a Southern textile town, I thought of my library card as the key to the world. My parents looked over my shoulder at what I was reading, but I was allowed a wide variety of literature. My father, for example, was a fan of both Robert Frost and Edgar Allan Poe, so I’m as likely to talk about paths diverging in the woods as the tell-tale heart.
I remember what books influenced my youth. I bet I will think of a dozen more the second I publish this post.
Some books were written before I was born. Jack London’s stories haunted me and his “To Build A Fire” directly influenced the opening scenes of my own Jaxon with an X. Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land looks at human culture from an outsider perspective, and not in the kindest way. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece, introduced me to one of the great character names of all times—James Nightshade, “born one minute after midnight” on October 31. I devoured everything by S. E. Hinton starting, of course, with The Outsiders, adding Ponyboy and Sodapop to the list of great character names.
I can’t remember exactly when I read those books, but Arthur C. Clarke’s haunting and mesmerizing Rendezvous with Rama was published when I was 9. The story hooked me with the strangeness of the visiting alien craft, but the shock came in discovering the earth was not their focus, but a simple refueling stop at the sun to reach their real destination.
The movie Jaws came out when I was 11. As scary as the movie was, my most colorful memory of it was being at Myrtle Beach with my best friend on a raft in the ocean well beyond where the waves broke. We were laughing and humming the theme song, doing our best to scare each other, when he screamed in agony and took off swimming for the shore. I was left on the raft doing my best to paddle to shore without actually entering the water, visions of a giant shark contained in every shadow below me. Once on shore, I discovered a jellyfish had wrapped its tentacles across his chest.
Oh, and I read the book by Peter Benchley, published a year earlier, and remember being shocked to discover that books and movies can have different endings.
But when I think of 1974, the year I turned 10, the author who most comes to mind, Stephen King, published his first real hit, Carrie. A year later, I absorbed the mesmerizing Salem’s Lot, writer Ben Mears teaming up with Mark Petrie, a kid of about my own age at the time, to battle a menacing vampire.
As a young teenager just a few years later, I read The Stand late into the night because I needed to find out what happened next to Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, Larry Underwood, Glen Bateman (and his dog Kojak), Nick Andros, Tom Cullen, and… you get the idea. King has this magical ability to bring characters to life, make you care deeply about them, and, yes, kill off some of them.
So, yes, around the age of 10, I moved on from Ramona, Nancy, Frank, and Joe to deeper, richer, and darker characters. Was it normal? I don’t know. But it contributed to who I am today.
Do you remember what books intrigued you then?
Books I’m Reading
Documentary film maker Theo Snyder flamed out after his initial success with the film The Basement. An embarrassing and highly public scandal scuttled his career. No one wants to work with him and he slinks away. But what if he can create a new hit? Will all be forgiven?
Desperate to return to his success, Theo pursues interviews with prisoner Jasper Ross-Johnson, the notorious “Halo Killer” who made a critical mistake and was caught after years of leaving no clues. Theo gets him to open up as no one else has been able to and the footage is spectacular. But the deeper Theo delves into the life and mind of a serial killer, the more unsettled he becomes.
Why did such a skilled killer get caught? What really happened to stop him before he could kill his final victim? Uncovering that answer may be Theo’s only hope—or his worst nightmare.
I’m not much of a television watcher (as in, I can’t remember the last time I watched any TV at all but it was before we moved back to Asheville), but I do enjoy well done training videos online. I’m currently watching two video training websites.
The first is Masterclass. I’m working my way through Neil Gaiman’s The Art of Storytelling, Paul Krugman’s Economics, and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness and Meditation. The first is what I do with my days, the second is mostly my old life in Corporate America, and the third is what I know least about and I am trying to get better at. I’ve worked through a number of courses over the years and find most on here to be quite good which has made the annual subscription price of $180 worthwhile.
The second is a recent find and, even better, is free. Hillsdale College offers a number of online courses in fairly deep topics from philosophy, classical literature, history, and law. I’ve found the material to be quite challenging, particularly since each session includes a test to see if I captured key details. There is a course here on Mark Twain I’m eager to take, but I’m working my way through some constitutional law right now. Yes, I live an exciting life.
Curious what educational links you use. Please let me know.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey wants to know why the human is sooooo slow opening the door from the yard to the house. Doesn’t he know air conditioning is inside and a Sibe needs his magic cool air vent in the summer?
Background title image courtesy Jason Wong