Reading for the First Time

All this book launch stuff has me thinking about the first time I read my favorite books.

I read THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE under the stairs at my county library when I was a kid, a quiet spot I considered all my own, and I remember turning the pages as fast as I could to get to the end. I read THE HERO AND THE CROWN in the school's library, laying on that hard, tightly woven carpet that might as well be made of stone. I started THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH in the car ride home after attending Carrie Ryan's signing, and I remember walking up the steps of my back porch with my nose still stuck in the book.

There is something magical about the first time you experience a story. Something about discovering the world and its secrets all on your own, about being surprised right there along with the characters, about not knowing if everything ends happily ever after, but hoping it does.

I also remember the first time I'd ever seen Casablanca. Now, Casablanca is a beautiful movie--but it's become so much a part of our culture, that even if we haven't seen it, we know something of it:

Of all the bars, in all the world, she had to walk into mine.
Play it again, Sam.
This is the start of a beautiful friendship.

After I watched the movie--in my Humanities class in tenth grade--my teacher Ms. Washburn asked me what I thought of it. I said I liked it well enough, but it was full of cliches. "They weren't cliche when the movie was made," Mrs. Washburn said. "The movie did it first."

It made me wish I could have seen Casablanca before it became so popular.

There are certainly a lot of stories that have become a part of our culture--and are, therefore, to a certain extent ruined for future generations. I have never seen The Planet of the Apes, but I know the story, and I even know some of the dialog: "You damn, dirty apes!" and "It was Earth...all along!" I will never be able to truly see that movie for the first time, because I've known how it ends for as long as I can remember.

And there's something about experiencing a story for the first time. Personally, I've always sort of wished I could have been there for the original live radio-show production of The Day the Earth Stood Still--I've heard that the reactions of the time--that people believed the Earth was truly under attack by aliens--have been exaggerated by history, but how cool would it be to experience this tale for the first time? To be one of the people sitting by the radio, on the edge of your seat, as you wonder what will happen next?

How about you? What story do you wish you could experience for the first time again?


Unknown said...

It is fun to experience a book for the first time. I also think its more fun when you discover it in a corner in the library and have no idea if anyone else in the world has read it or not. For awhile it feels like a little world created just for you and when you do discover than someone else has entered it it is like you already know them. In that reguard it is posible for a book to be too sucessful. There is no secrecy in reading, say, Harry Potter and that takes a little something away from the experience.

Pamela said...

What a wonderful post and question. I love the memory of that feeling, the one you get when you know you're reading something special and you want to read it as quickly as possible, but you want the story to never end. And THE HERO AND THE CROWN is definitely high on my list; I checked it out from my middle school library and was completely floored to have found a fantasy book which featured a *girl* saving the day and kicking ass.

I remember reading AND THEN THERE WERE NONE when I was in high school. I was sitting outside on a bench outside the band room, and the day was very cloudy and humid, getting ready to rain. I hit the delicious end of that book and I didn't see it coming at all. It was wonderful. I'd love to have that feeling of whoa, revelation! again.