Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which I nerdishly rave about one of my all-time favorite books EVER!

In true nerdish fashion, we have tickets to the midnight premier of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I’m ridiculously excited.  I didn’t do midnight premieres for any of the LOTR films, so this thing—this is huge.  Everyone has SOME book they’d love to see turned into a movie, but this book literally changed my life.  
I remember, as a little kid, dusting my parents’ bookshelves and coming across this large, beautiful, green book with a dragon on the cover.  He was red, with one golden eye glaring out at the world, smoke curling from his nostrils, as he clutched at the mound of gold that was his bed.  I wasn’t allowed to watch movies or read books with magic or dragons, so I would stare at it in wonder before putting it back, wondering why my parents had something “evil” in their bedroom.

Illustration by Michael Hague

Week after week, I dusted, eying the strange book, until finally I pulled it off the shelf and, stealthily, began turning the pages.  Inside were the most beautiful illustrations of a small man with curly hair and stocky fellows with beards. They carried swords, fought wicked goblins, talked with a pale, shriveled thing in caves, soared on eagle wings, wrestled giant spiders, and, finally encountered the great dragon.
I was in awe.
I’d read little snippets, trying to understand the pictures (especially the one of the skinny creature with giant eyes in the cave), then shove the book back on the shelf, terrified of getting caught, wondering if it really was a very bad book. 

Illustration by Michael Hague

The secret picture-gazings became a habit; until, finally, I took the book off the shelf, put it under my arm and carried it away.  I was going to read it, dagnabbit, and no one would stop me.    
I swept away in a world that I knew, then, had always been calling to my heart.  It had sung to me from that dusty bookshelf, forgotten.  Sometimes, you find words that unlock something inside you, something secret even to you.
Illustration by Michael Hague

I’ve read it maybe a dozen times since that first time, thirteen years ago.  I have taken it with me everywhere, like a security blanket, and it has been present for so many life changes.  After my family moved, I sat down on my frameless mattress that was my bed for a week, and I read the book through in a matter of hours, finding comfort in the familiar.  A paperback version traveled with me to Nicaragua, and was lost somehow on the bus taking us home from Miami, after I proved I knew the book so well I could read it upside down. I took my beloved green hardback to college then to London, despite the luggage weight limit—I just couldn’t imagine going to its birthplace without it, without the guarantee that I had something brilliant to read when I was lonely. Finally, I took it out of my parents’ house into my own when I was married.  

Illustration by Michael Hague
 Technically, it’s not “mine.”  It was a Christmas present from my mom to my dad during their early married years.  She thought he had read it, and bought it for him hoping to read it with him.  This is an incredibly sweet offer from my mother, who, until this past year, is such a realist she couldn’t get past the third sentence, in which the hobbit’s glorious, round green door is introduced.  “There aren’t round doors,” she said. “He’s a little person who lives in a hole. No one does that. I just can’t, Sarah. I can’t.”  As it turns out, my father had never read it, and, really, has shown no real interest in reading it, though I get my love for the imaginary from him. I think the LOTR movies’ Ringwraiths put a bad taste in his mouth.
Still, I see it as part of my inheritance. I was the first to read it, after all.  I read it aloud to my little sister at bedtime when she was six.  I will never forget how she ran from her room to my mom’s, begging for a later bedtime so I could read the last chapter to her, then darting across the house, squealing, “SHE SAID YEEES!!!”  I passed it on to my brother, and, from that point on, we were true nerds together, in love with Star Wars and Tolkien.  It led me to one of my great heroes, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the father of the modern fantasy epic, who has so hugely influenced my own writing and creativity. 
One day, I hope to read it to my children—to laugh with them as the dwarves demolish Biblo’s kitchen, to shudder at Gollum’s riddles, to feel the fear, the curiosity, the wonder, the tragedy, and the victory of one small man’s journey from a predictable dud to a wielder of swords and riddles, a legendary hero who changed the world.
I know that there are “greater” books—books upheld by literary scholars, by people far smarter than I am—but this has earned a very special place on my shelf and in my heart.  It opened the world of fantasy for me.  We met in secret, and we fell in love.  “In a whole in the ground, there lived a hobbit,” and the world grew a little bigger, a little brighter.


So, yeah, I'm a little excited.
Just a tiny bit.
And I'm a nerd in love with a book. Yeah . . . . just a tad . . . but, to be fair, I'm in love with lots of books . . . they're just not midnight premiers tomorrow ;]

1 comment:

  1. I adore every letter of this post!! And you are adorable.


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