This passage in Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby is so apropos for me and many of the writers I know. And it speaks of the delight of meeting fellow readers–even readers of our books–in person, online, in letters. We readers share wonder–Have you read…? Didn’t you love…? Who’s your favorite character in…? Wouldn’t you love to step through that door and discover…? We learn so much from each other by knowing what we’ve read and loved.
“Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation, and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.
“These vanishing acts are a staple of children’s books, which often tell of adventures that are magical because they travel between levels and kinds of reality, and the crossing over is often an initiation into power and into responsibility. They are in a sense allegories first for the act of reading, of entering an imaginary world, and then of the way that the world we actually inhabit is made up of stories, images, collective beliefs, all the immaterial appurtenances we call ideology and culture, the pictures we wander in and out of all the time. In children’s books there are inanimate objects that come to life, speaking statues, rings and words of power, talismans and amulets, and most of all, there are doors….”
These wonder-filled stories gave us the courage to be who we are, didn’t they? I loved E Nesbit–The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Five Children and It, Mary Norton’s Bednob and Broomstick, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (so much that I wrote her a fan letter), Marchette Chute’s The Innocent Wayfaring, fairy tales of all sorts. Well, that’s a start. What were some of your favorite children’s books?