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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The first book I...
First, thanks angel_gidget for the cleaned up, spiffy, animated icon. :) Yay!

Anyway, this is half-post, half my own meme... anyone who wants to pick it up is welcome to, it's meme form (if there's such a thing), but mostly, it's just a post that happens to be a list.

I was glancing through On Writing again (largely because I found myself otherwise bookless at lunch, and it was in my bag for some reason), and King says that every writer remembers the first book he or she read and realized, "I can do better than this! Hell, I am doing better than this!" I don't really recall that one (well, I do, but I was wrong in a lot of important ways), but here are some other memorable books.

The first book I remember reading from was The Wizard of Oz. My mother tells me that I used to take it around to all the adults in the house (until I was five, we lived with my grandmother, her husband, and my great-grandmother), and sit on their laps sequentially until they'd read it to me. Then I'd flip it back to the beginning and get them to start again. My mother believed I had memorized it when I started correcting them if they skipped words. I can't say absolutely for sure--it's hard to remember being three!--but I'm reasonably certain I was reading, and I was definitely reading by that winter. What I remember most clearly was the big "D" that started it, all green and decorated. There was a little picture above it of Dorothy on the farm, and the first word of that book was definitely Dorothy. I read my copy to death before I hit first grade, and haven't had one since.

The first book everyone agreed I was reading from was Babar and Father Christmas. I got it for the Christmas I was three (obviously, this was before I converted). I'd been trying to say for several months that I could read, but everyone thought I had just memorized all of my books. The Babar book was brand new; I think it was a present from Judy, who lived next door (the mother of my first best friend, Jacques). I unwrapped it and read it out loud right there in Grandma's living room. I don't remember a lot about being three, but I remember everyone getting really quiet and listening to me. Never did lose my taste for that. :)

The first book I got totally emotionally involved with was Little Women. It's a book that the family has pretty much had mothers give to daughters since... well, probably since Louisa May Alcott released it into the world. My mom gave it to me when I started first grade, figuring it would take me awhile. She was right. I remember several times, she would catch me reading while I was supposed to be getting ready for school, including once when I had one sock on my foot and the other in my hand, using it to hold my book open. She swears I was the only child on Earth who had to be told to finish getting dressed before I was allowed to read in the morning. Unfortunately, when Beth died, I got very upset. I threw the book across the room and did not pick it up for two months.

The first book in which I got a crush on a character was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I really, really wanted to marry Tom Sawyer when I grew up (at which point, after a hundred years of boyhood, he would as well). This was second or third grade. Probably third. It's still such a goofy, happy memory that I grinned from ear to ear when grown-up Tom showed up in A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The first book I started playing with in a fanfictiony way was Little Men, not long after I finished Tom Sawyer. Not realizing that Louisa May Alcott had in fact written a book (Jo's Boys) that told what happened, I made up all kinds of stories in my head about Nat and Daisy getting married, and Tommy and Nan. Dan would have adventures. I forget what the others were going to do, but I just had to think of something.

The first good author I read without parental guidance was Edgar Allen Poe, who I discovered while we were visiting my godmother in Richmond when I was nine. We visited his house, and I bought a book of short stories and poems, and just loved "Annabel Lee" and "The Masque of the Red Death."

The first grown-up book I read at the same time as my mother was a cheap horror paperback called The Unblessed, picked up on the same trip. My godmother had lent it to my mother, who was reading it wide-eyed. I sleep on a way different cycle than she does (she's a morning person, I'm a night person, and always have been), so while she was sleeping, I opened it up and started reading. Mom says now that she can't believe she let me read it, though she never forbade me to read anything, so I'm not sure where that would have come from. It scared the blazes out of me (there was a shape-shifting spider god who ate people's brains by burning through their eye sockets... and he could do mind control, too!), but I don't think it did any permanent damage, except for warping me toward speculative fiction because it had such a wallop. Then again, I was already reading Poe, so The Unblessed may not even be to blame for that.

Over the next few years I read a lot of forgettable ghost stories. I was addicted to them. I remember two by plot, but I can't remember the authors or titles. Does anyone recognize these stories? The first was about a shop that sold poison items (no, not Needful Things; it was a young adult title published in the 70s). The heroine had bought a ring (antique?) that was killing her. The second was about a brother and sister who moved into an old house where there'd been a nursery fire a hundred years before; the ghost of the brother and sister who died in it lead them to solve the mystery.

The first book series I fell for was Nancy Drew (sheepish grin). Those little hardbacks with the yellow spines, and Nancy on the front solving her mysteries. I knew I was going to like the movie Miss Congeniality when it opened with a child version of Sandra Bullock's character reading one of those... what nostalgia! Made me feel good. My favorite was number 5, The Mystery of Shadow Ranch. I no longer remember why. Ghosts, probably, even though they turned out not to be real. I'm excessively annoyed to discover that there's a Nancy Drew On Campus series which is more involved with her romance with Ned than with solving mysteries. Bah, humbug.

The first book I read as a writer was Carrie, by Stephen King. That would be seventh or eighth grade. I'm inclined to think eighth, as I borrowed it from my English teacher, and it seems more likely that Miss Abel had it than that Mr. Oxenford did. It's the first time in my life that I remember thinking along the lines of, I love the way this is put together... the way these fake articles and book excerpts work is so neat... cool, the way he breaks up a sentence to put in a thought... King is still my biggest stylistic influence, and the thematics aren't very different either, though my language isn't as, erm, colorful. That's just not the way I generally talk or think. Probably the most Kingian thing I've done lately is the Tom Riddle Sorting in Of A Sort, though when I did my half of the epilogue in The Ascension of the Queen, I realized as soon as I'd done it that there were major shades of It. Oddly, I've never done King fanfic, and don't really have a great desire to.

The first book where I said "I can do better than this" was Splinter of the Mind's Eye. I was wrong in the sense that I didn't have the writing skills at that point. On the other hand, my major thought was, "With Star Wars to play with, there has to be something cooler to write about." I still think that.

I guess that's a long enough list.

ETA: It just occurred to me to add... until my early twenties, I never once thought of myself as a horror fan. Ever. Looking at this list, I can't imagine what else I thought I was. I just didn't like horror movies. It wasn't until I'd almost exhausted my Stephen King stash and read Danse Macabre that I realized I actually like the genre as a whole and pretty much always have.

I feel a bit...: blah blah

5 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 31st, 2004 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, would that be the edition of "The Wizard of Oz" with the Michael Hague illustrations? Lots of good paintings, but the picture above chapter 1 is just as you described (though I imagine most illustrations of Oz would actually begin like that). I loved that book when I was little, though the first one I actually remember being to read to from is "Little House in the Big Woods." As for Oz, my favourite chapter by far was "The Search for the Wicked Witch." In fact, whenever babysitters came over, I would always tell them that my mom had left off at that chapter so they would read it to me; I probably heard that one more than everything else in the book combined. I was a sly four-year-old in some ways :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2004 10:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure. It was released as an anniversary edition. The illos were largely green-tinted. One showed Dorothy with reams of silk for the balloon she and the Wizard were supposed to escape in.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2004 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I found my edition... and I remembered the D wrong!!! It wasn't decorated, it was Dorothy leaning on it, looking out over the prairie. Red-faced, but also happy to see an "old friend" again. That's definitely it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2004 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, that couldn't have been my edition, since that's the 100th anniversary edition, and I had mine in 1973, probably released in '72. If 2002 is the hundredth, it had to be the 70th, but that's not much of an anniversary, is it? Maybe the book was older and came from the fiftieth?

I don't know. But that's my illustrator.
erised1810 From: erised1810 Date: April 1st, 2004 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
wow, this wassomethign interesting to read. I'm thinking of what I first read etc but therehave been dutch kids books mostly so it won't make muc hsense. except of course...Roald Dahl. my brother probably had the mall. and some were read to us in primary school.
Right now I'm tyrignto catch up on all the stuff I'v eneglected to read. I'm mostl ygathering all kidns of classic lit (liek little Women and al lthe rest of her boks). but I'm mostly collecting series. everythign with a girl's name or a boy's name or a whole group, it's fien by me. So-and-so for mthat-and-that manor, Someon of {fill-in-area].
wow. this really brings back memories.
5 comments or Leave a comment