the following is an excerpt from a story I’m writing. let me know what you think!
I ran a finger over the yellowing edge of The Portable Dorothy Parker and sighed. Despite my fit of ecstasy over these books earlier that week, as I stood in the library high on my own intellectual pretensions, I felt oddly deflated. When I flipped these books over, hoping for a description of the story contained within, all I saw were reviews of the book. I’d noticed more and more that books meant for adults were usually formatted like that, and I felt a rush of longing for the books I read as a child, all of which had descriptions on the back.
It wasn’t the descriptions I missed – it was the books themselves. A lonely, awkward child, most of my best childhood memories were in the company of books. If you spend that much time with books, reading them becomes more than just an escape – it’s like visiting an old friend, like knocking on a door, and, with a wave of relief, falling into familiar, beloved arms, and letting all the loneliness or anxiety or coldness of the outside world melt away.
For whatever reason, certain books were cottage books. Some books, which I usually kept at home, had been so beloved that I’d felt the need to transport them back and forth – Little Women, Harry Potter – but most stayed in their fixed location. And there was something truly wonderful about that first day back at the cottage after a long winter at home – opening the doors for the first time, and inhaling that glorious smell of pine and dust, and cold, clean, unused air, before launching myself into the cabin with glee, running around to rediscover all of my beloved, half-forgotten possessions. And the books - ! Running my hands greedily over the spines encased in the bookshelf, pulling books out wildly just for the joy of seeing their covers that had all but disappeared from memory.
It was wonderful, that sense of literary elation, and I missed it. I had weaned myself off of the desperate dependency on books for comfort in my middle school quest to shed my unforgiveable lack of cool. I was not exactly popular, but I no longer inhabited that awful nerdiness that clings to your skin like napalm, burning and burning so that you can’t forget it yourself, marking you so that no one else can ever forget either.
Besides my quest to shed that skin, I had matured, or so I believed. It was no longer acceptable to grab my tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland or The Midwife’s Apprentice or The Borrowers or The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking and gulp it down the way soccer players did water on a hot day, mouth to mouth with the bottle, only pausing to pour it down their fronts, and immerse themselves in it completely.
And so I had mostly stopped reading. Children’s books – although there were plenty that were horrible, there were so many of them that you could spend all your time just reading the good ones and you’d never run out of material – were wonderful, and those were no longer acceptable. Teen books were, in my mind, an abomination. Adult books had become a beacon of hope – maybe they could help fill the void left behind since I’d discarded my old friends. Now, they sat on the shelf, ignored, practically begging for me to pour over them rapturously, as I had once done.