Friday, December 18, 2009

on loving books, or anything

Tiger with The Time Traveler's Wife, fall 2008
Lately I've been thinking about falling in love with books, because it's been a long time since I fell in love with one. I used to fall in love with books more frequently than I do now, and I wonder what it says about me or books that I don't stumble into ones that feel like such a perfect fit as often as I used to.
The last book I fell in love with was That Mad Ache by Francoise Sagan, and even then I remember feeling skeptical and nervous before opening the front cover because I wasn't sure it would make me feel the way that other books had made me feel, and that is a feeling I search for and miss.
It kind of scares me. As I get older, I feel like my romantic nature tips more and more to the skeptical side of the scale. Throughout my whole life, everyone has called me a romantic, and I liked it that way, and I didn't think anything would ever change it. Lately, though, I feel like small things are making smoke in the place I used to keep my hopefulness, the part of me that thinks anything is possible and looks for the secrets of the world between the lines of literature.
It's this hopefulness and fascination that make up the reasons I love being an artist and aspiring writer - I am constantly searching for something. I want to go deeper and deeper into one little thing until I know everything about it, and in a way that creates even more mystery. I'm fascinated by botany and natural history. I want to know it all. Yet sometimes I don't trust my desire for detail and knowledge. I've started to convince myself that my pursuits of things aren't necessary, that if I did uncover something of anything, what would the point really be? It's like I want to capture something, but what if I never can? And what if I did, and it let me down?
These thoughts never even used to cross my mind. It was all about the search. I wrote ten journal pages a day. I haven't done that in over a year.
Being a romantic can be hard, because I feel like it's associated with a certain degree of naivete. If you choose to "smarten up" and look at things realistically, it's hard not to lose a little bit of your romantic nature. Why can't a person be smart and romantic all at once?
I feel torn between my heart and science (and not the kind of science I love).
I miss working with animals and children. I think I need to find my way back to those things. Until then, I'm going to read as much as I can and not let anything stand in my way.
So, in honor of all the books I have fallen in love with, a list of them (there are many books that I have loved, including the hundreds of books my mom read to us growing up, but these are the ones that effected me the most that I discovered on my own):
1) The Princess and the Unicorn (fell in love 1992 - a book I took out at least 40 times from my elementary school library. When I was in 8th grade, the librarian contacted me and gave the book to me - the card with my name all over it was still in the front cover.)
2) The Diary of Anne Frank (fell in love 1998 & 2000 - I read this three times but I can't remember the third date.)
3) Night by Ellie Weisel (fell in love fall of 2000 -I still love the boy who played violin. I drew a picture of him in 9th grade.)
4) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (fell in love spring of 2003 - Rosasharn is one of my favorite literary heroines of all time. This book was too much for me to understand at the time but I read every single word it had to offer. I'd love to reread it someday.)
5) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (fell in love spring of 2004 - I loved Blanche's speech in scene 9 about believing in magic, and what's so wrong with it anyway? I've always felt very kindred with Blanche.)
6) the collected poems of e.e. cummings (fell in love winter of 2004 - I became enamored with him while living in Cambridge where he grew up, which just had me awe struck. I loved to walk by his house. I loved the way he cared about every little thing, and believed everything had feelings.)
7) "preludes" by T. S. Eliot (fell in love winter of 2005 - "the notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing." favorite lines.)
8) Free Stallion by Amber Tamblyn (fell in love winter of 2005 -my poetic awakening)
9)The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (fell in love fall of 2006 - "to know the pain of too much tenderness." the first sentence I ever underlined in a book.)
10)Henry and June by Anais Nin (fell madly in love spring of 2007-I can't even go into detail about what this book means to me, but you will read about it someday, I promise!)
11) Evening by Susan Minot (fell in love summer of 2007 -dark blue and grass green)
12) St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (fell in love fall of 2007 - black stars and my love for short stories)
13) A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett (fell in love fall of 2007 - I read this out loud to O'Malley the night before he was put to sleep. This story reminds me of someone I met when I was 6 and someone I met when I was 20.)
14) The Awakening by Kate Chopin (fell in love fall 2007 - a novel in which I found myself and my past loves comparable to the main characters -kind of laughable now, but this is why I love being young!, and wrote a free-style paper in which I took paragraphs from the book and then retold my own similar experience for my american lit final).
15) Ruby by Francesca Lia Block (fell in love winter of 2007 - everything I wished was real, began in a snow storm, plastic elephant.)
16) The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery (fell in love spring of 2008 - the flower. being tamed. reading on a train.)
17) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (fell in love fall of 2008 - knowing what I want.)
17) My Darling from the Lions by Alice Denham (fell in love winter of 2009 -an artist in love. the first novel of a female writer in a male-dominated industry, circa 1960.)
18) That Mad Ache by Francoise Sagan (fell in love fall of 2009 -making sense of everything up until that point.)
I want to fall in love many times in 2010, but once would be ideal.


amy said...

I don't read like I used to either. I find that i am currently not reading novels and its kinda weird. Reading lots of research type non-fiction which is great but falling into a really great story is something I haven't done in awhile.
I am a great fan of The Prophet too. I have my mother's copy. As well as of Botany-i took a class over the summer. not very useful but so interesting.

My favorites: Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, The Aubrey Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian. I like long books that I can really get into and read for months.

WoolenSails said...

My favorite book was Black Beauty.
I loved animal stories when I was younger, so of course, wind in the willows, was another.


Kate said...

Hello you--
Perhaps "romantic" has been the wrong word to describe you all these years. I don't know what the right word is, but I do know that it is one of the things I love about you. I am grateful for how you see the world-- with a poetic enthusiasm. It reminds me to slow down and see the spaces in between things, the quiet moments. Thank you.

You will find your way, we all do.

The most recent books I have fallen in love with are "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" and "The Master and Margarita". But my most beloved books are "Pride and Prejudice," "The Brendan Voyage" (which I read in 5th grade and have reread every winter since then), and "Kim" by Rudyard Kipling

Julia Denos said...

Wow what a lovely book list! it's so perfect. I remember falling in love with some passages by Emerson, and feeling like he was a friend. In the moments I read him, he was almost alive because we shared a common way of thinking. Isn't that the best feeling, to connect with art?

I almost had that same reaction to this very blog post about "smartness" and "romance" and that fine balance. The perception of those things as naive always bothered me too! I always think people are silly who believe that simple, true and romantic things, just because they are not dark, hopeless, or apathetic and are not real, complex, or worthy of art! So silly...don't lose the romance :) and yes working with children and animals can put you right back there :)

Haha I loved this post!

Anonymous said...

wonderful post, amanda. thank you. i share your feelings -- it's been ages since i've read a book that inspired me to read more. i've read some of the books in your list, though there are plenty that i've yet to check out.

again, thank you for this list.

Amanda Atkins said...

thaks for the beautiful responses, everyone! I love them and they make me happy. :)