Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"You Will Not Be the Same"

photo by Manfred at thisfabtrek.com
This year's theme of Summer Reading Clubs at DPPL is Have Book Will Travel. I think this an excellent concept to associate with reading: not only can you visit faraway lands and learn about new cultures inside a book's pages, but you can also embark on a journey within yourself when you become engaged in a book. There is a terrific exchange between Bilbo and Gandalf in the film The Hobbit: An Expected Journey where Gandalf mentions that Bilbo might have a tale or two to tell when he comes back from his upcoming quest. Bilbo asks, "Can you promise that I will come back?" Gandalf responds with great gravitas, "No. And if you do... you will not be the same."

Do we ever return to who we were when we finish our reading journeys? In most cases, this question may seem a bit melodramatic, but in a very few cases it is incredibly appropriate. For any avid reader, there has been at least one book, one quest undertaken, that has transformed their perception and expectations of the world (and books) going forward. Stephen R. Donaldson provided one of those moments for me.

A gigantic turning point in my reading life was the first time I went through the double trilogy of Donaldson's the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The titular character was in constant flux and a complete moral mess - bitter and heartbroken, defensive yet defenseless, making despicable choices and eschewing forgiveness. Covenant's depth was stunning and I was captivated from the start. After finishing those books, I was hungry for another greatly conflicted, angry-at-the-world-yet-angrier-at-himself type of character. I found one in Severus Snape, who made me rip through the Harry Potter books one by one, just to see if he actually ended up being a good guy or a bad guy. I still enjoy majorly-flawed characters (one of my later discoveries has been Jack Taylor in Ken Bruen's mysteries) but the watershed moment for me remains my experience with Donaldson's Covenant books.

What biblio-journeys have you been on recently? Has your life, reading or otherwise, been irrevocably changed by what you've read?

Incidentally, Adult Summer Reading is humming right along here on the third floor of DPPL. We have a trivia contest that awards weekly prizes as well as a reading program where you can fill out a free contest entry for every book you read. The grand prize is an iPad Mini which is funded, along the weekly trivia prizes, by the generosity of the Friends of the Des Plaines Public Library.

Incidentally Part II, the Return of Incidentally, we also have a Teen Summer Reading Program for teens entering grades 7-12. Sign-up for that is online or here on the third floor as well. We will be showing a movie for teens, the aforementioned The Hobbit: An Expected Journey, this Thursday, June 20 at 5.30pm in Meeting Room C on the first floor.


Laura Adler said...

What a wonderful post! I'm currently on a "biblio-journey" to Detroit via Charlie LeDuff's "Detroit: An American Autopsy." The journalist returns to his native city, which was once the richest city in America (something I never knew). It's particularly interesting to me as a fan of the movie Searching for Sugarman, some of which was shot in Detroit, the home of its subject, singer Sixto Rodriguez.

Linda K. said...

Every new book by Carl Hiaasen takes me on a biblio-journey thru South Florida. His latest, Bad Monkey, tours the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

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