Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Story About a Book

I have made it a daily habit to click on a breast cancer fund-raising site (breast cancer site) partly because I'm a survivor and partly because it runs in my family. The site hosts several others including one for a literacy campaign. Today, it asked which book first turned me on to reading. I was soon transported back to my first school-sponsored book fair. I think I was eleven at the time and it made a huge impression on me. In the lobby one morning, there were several, large tables stacked with new books from which each of us were allowed to select two. All of them had colorful covers and each seemed to hold great promise. Learning was most likely one of the goals of the fair, but imagination played a huge role in my selections. When I finally settled on my choices, I reverently carried them back to my classroom, then home. Danny Kaye was a huge star in those days. He was also famous for story-telling. One of my books was a collection of folktales he had collected during his travels. It was beautifully illustrated -- always a selling point with a kid. Danny Kaye had portrayed Hans Christian Andersen in a movie, so I could imagine him reciting these stories to me. I have no memory of the other book I selected -- it was probably something practical like a dictionary. Years later, I gave the book to my younger sister who had small children by then. Much to my surprise, she confessed that one illustration in the book had always creeped her out since she was little. It was a picture of a devil-like character. It had never made much of an impression on me, but it sure had on her! I think she put the book way in the back of a closet. I'm now reading Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. It is possibly the most bizarre book I've ever read. I bought it out of curiosity to see what all the uproar had been about. I have found it very hard to follow yet am determined to finish it. It seems to require a somewhat more worldly sophistication and knowledge than I possess, but it's still compelling. I'm only up to page 355 of this 561 page novel, so perhaps it will come together at the end. . . .? I'd love to know what other regular people, like me, thought of it.

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