Thursday, August 2, 2012
You know you're a lifelong fiction lover when...
Do you reread favorite novels over and over? Do the characters seem real to you? What percentage of your fund of basic knowledge comes from facts you learned in fiction? The list below was inspired by the first item on it, supplied by a childhood friend with whom I’ve just reconnected. My most vivid memories of her centered around some very personal stuff confided when we were ten or eleven, maybe twelve. What she remembered about me made me laugh, because it demonstrated how long I’ve been a bookworm.
You know you’re a lifelong fiction lover when...
Your old friend from Girl Scout camp tells you 60 years later that you once kept her awake all night recounting to her the entire plot of The Count of Monte Cristo.
You can draw from memory the family tree of the Day, Sprague, and Campion families from Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg novels, which you took out of the library innumerable times in the 1950s.
You can supply a name, date, pronunciation, or spelling—without checking—of historical figures and events about 90 percent of the time your husband the history buff brings them up in conversation, though you haven’t read a nonfiction history book since college.
You’re still looking for the first real storybook you got from the library as a kid, long, long out of print. It was called Sally and the White Horse, and it was about a brother and sister who are captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery. She was confined in the harem, and he worked in the garden, or was it the stable, and he’d pretend to talk to himself so she could hear what he said through the bars about planning their escape. One point he made over and over was, “I must learn Arabic.” To this day, you wonder whether you would be capable of picking up Arabic, not an easy language, if you needed it in desperate circumstances.
Every time you cross the Susquehanna River when driving from New York to Washington, DC you think about Frances Slocum, a little girl in the Revolutionary period who was captured by Indians, adopted, and spent her entire life with the tribe. How do you know? A fictionalized retelling of her story was serialized in Jack and Jill, the children’s magazine your family subscribed to when you were a kid.
If you were stuck on a desert island without anything to read, you think you might be able to reconstitute quite a number of novels you’ve reread dozens of times, including such favorite mysteries as Brat Farrar.
One-liners from books form part of your permanent vocabulary, no matter how long ago you read them. For example, in one of Margery Allingham’s mysteries, there’s a woman reporter who rationalizes her nosiness by saying, “I only ask because I want to know.” You use that all the time. You’ve even noticed that the line is in iambic pentameter.