I remember precisely when I first picked up my copy of Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. (See my previous post on the subject; a comment from a friend inquiring if he was in fact the one who sold it to me (he was! This was ages and ages ago) got me thinking about this subject in general.) I think, much like major world events, the brain tends to hold on to smaller, significant, personal experiences, like where you were when you first read, or even first heard of, a book that would end up changing your life.
Some other significant personal experiences with me and books:
– I don’t remember when I first actually read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I really don’t. I was behind the times when that ‘trend’ came about, my parents found out about it first (Dad worked in a library and bought home everything ever). I distinctly recall we were in the car driving to my grandmother’s when they were listening to Sorcerer’s Stone on audio book. I fell asleep, because I often fall asleep during long car rides. My mother came by later that night to inform me of a passage I’d missed but she thought I would enjoy:
[Dumbledore] smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, “Alas! Ear wax!”
I don’t have the functional mental capacity required for audio books. I can’t even listen to podcasts. I put on background music when I do anything (to this day, I can’t listen to OK Go’s “Get Over It” without somehow imagining Professor Snape, because I had a promotional CD of the single that I played on literal loop for the entire duration of the day I spent in my room reading Order of the Phoenix). So obviously I had to go and read the series eyes-to-page, as is my wont. And thus an addict was born.
– More on addiction: I distinctly recall the day Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (my current re-read!) came out, because my friends were in town visiting for the weekend, an infrequent occurrence, and I spent my day on their couch trying to simultaneously interact and also read about wizards. The best guest is the one who sits on your couch and reads without talking to you.
– My all-time favorite book, Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, was consumed on a night train ride from Chicago. I have re-read it without fail every year since (I need about a year to digest everything in it, and to cleanse my memory sufficiently so that all of the twists and turns and lyrical dances come as a fresh new surprise), but I always remember that first glorious time.
– I distinctly recall the day, in my very first library job, where it was pouring rain and my coworker and I had no patrons, and I sat behind the desk while the rain thundered on the roof, reading Dean Koontz’s Phantoms for the first time and getting terrified out of my mind. (Say what you will about Dean Koontz, his early stuff before it became all about psycho killers was very good and sufficiently scary.) Ambiance can sometimes be everything.
– That particular job is also where I first discovered Lemony Snicket (do you like how I’m slowly going backwards in time?), and had ready access to A Series of Unfortunate Events, to consume more or less in one sitting, up until the point where I had to wait an agonizing year between volumes, causing entirely too much stress and worry about those darn orphans of misfortune.
So where were you when you first read something that changed your life?