Thursday, October 2, 2008
Laura Miller is a vigorous reader; the reviews and essays she writes—for Salon.com, for New York Times, for New Yorker, those stature zones—speed forward with a sort of exhilarating fury, a faith in books and their significance, and a determination to say precisely what she means. If I haven't always agreed with her (do two people ever see eye to eye on every book?), I've always greatly admired her, and when David Foster Wallace died so tragically a few weeks ago, it was Laura's words to which I turned first; she wouldn't appease, she wouldn't heal, but she might help me understand.
Laura has a new book due out soon, The Magician's Book, and its premise intrigues. It's the story of a woman—Laura herself—who fell deeply in love with the Narnia tales as a child and grew disenchanted as a teen. Finally, she allowed her adult self a rebounded intrigue, allowed herself to return to the land of Narnia. What had C.S. Lewis done with his tales to bring this child in? How had it shaped what and how she would read later? Who else had fallen under Narnia's spell? What in the end makes for a literary reader?
All this past week, perhaps even more, I've been talking about The Book Thief with my friend Andra. She read it after I did, we wrote nearly each day of its power. Two nights ago, she turned its final page, and when her husband arrived home, he found her devastated, not wishing to leave the company of the characters she'd met. As I'd lived this, too, as I still have not escaped The Book Thief's spell, I understood. I recognized, in Andra, a kindred heart, a reader who, in Miller's words, pays exuberant attention.
Laura Miller has spent an entire life paying attention to books. I'm betting that we should pay attention to this one.
I'm also wondering what books have seized your heart and have changed who you've become.