In a conversation I was reading on the internet today, one person said “My girlfriend says: ‘If you have a favorite book then you don’t read enough.’ ”
I respectfully disagree with the Girlfriend here, but I think it’s a semantic disagreement about the meaning of “favorite”.
My favorite book is my favorite book because when I see the cover, or pick up my old copy, or pick up a new copy, or let it fall open to any page, or search specifically for that particular passage, I remember strongly and completely a particular moment in time when I was still a kid, but suddenly learned a strange and awful–yet oddly comforting–truth about adults.
Not from the book itself, although that did happen to be part of the text of the book, but because of various reactions from adults when I wanted to talk about what it meant. Some did not get what it meant. Some did. Some would not credit my understanding of what it meant. Some did.
So this is my favorite book–in part because it’s a top-shelf high-calibre book, but also because my experience in reading it actually propelled my self forward. And just looking at the book again makes me feel again that wild and wonderful movement from being a child to not. And makes me feel again the slight disorientation of seeing that movement while making that movement. Like spinning too much then lying flat on your back in the grass and feeling the rotation of the earth.
What follows is not a story about my favorite book, but just a remembrance of reading.
When I was a child, for a while, we lived on the Air Base and were wholly free to roam. I used to go to the library, where I had permission from my mother to bring home anything I wanted, ever. Even so, Mom would regularly get phone calls from the librarians, asking whether they could really let me have whatever it was I was trying to check out now.
I should defend the librarians. I often picked bizarre books of questionable value, aimed squarely at an adult audience that I was not a part of. Libraries exist at the public’s pleasure–those on government installations ever more so–so I appreciate the position they were in. Nevertheless, you would think the note in the file that yes, my mom had said I could take home any book I wanted would have been enough.
I remember once, when I was 8ish years old, choosing The Amityville Horror. It was a best-seller at the time. Advertised everywhere. With a big movie coming out. Whether or not the librarian on duty called Mom about it, when I got home, Mom would look through my books. She asked if I was sure I wanted to read that one. I told her I was. She said she had read it and it was pretty trashy, maybe not as interesting as I wanted it to be. I told her it was true! How could it not be interesting? And Mom suggested that I might not think it was so very true, after I had read it, but that if I really want to read it, I should and we could talk about whether or not it was plausible when I was done.
I actually never finished it that year. I got to the part about the swarm of houseflies and became so grossed out and frightened that I tossed it under the living room chair and forgot about it until it was time to move. Mom found it when the movers came and had to take it back to the library, where I’m sure she was embarrassed by the fines.
Eventually, I finished it. Decided it was–as my mother had said at the time–Not True. Most likely just a story told in an attempt to make money by people who bought a house they thought better of. Nonetheless, I still can’t stand houseflies.