Monday, January 13, 2014

Books That Linger

We've sidled along this subject before--those books that stick with us through our lives. Kim's Top Ten Books meme a few weeks back brought a whole bunch of great books to the list, and we even got a bit of why. I want to take it a step further.

If you are reading this, you are a reader, or a writer, or both. Some stories are read and enjoyed and forgotten. Some are remembered. And some, those treasured few, linger in our minds all our lives. I have loved many books, and I though I will name three here, they might not be my absolute favorite reads of all time; they are the ones that linger.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I could not count how many times I have read The Giver. When I read it the first time, I was in my twenties. I read it from the perspective of a sheltered young woman coming out of a very dark place to a world that was nothing she ever expected it to be. The Giver made me see that there was so much just beneath the surface, things I glimpsed now and again but never truly acknowledged. As an angsty thirtysomething rebelling against all those conventions and restrictions of a housewife and mother in 1990s suburbia, I disdained the conformity. The ultimate "keeping up with the Joneses" prettied up to look like it was all fair and equitable--as long as no one stepped out of their boxes. When I read it in my forties, I saw the overwhelming love imbued into every word of this story. Heading into my fifties, I am wondering what will grab at my heart next time.

Ender's Game. Is there a book with more controversy these days? While I respect those lines people draw around art vs. artist, I am one who separates them. Ender's Game never fails to bring me to tears from the very first pages. It touches that little kid in me, the one who never fit in, yet longed to be liked, safe. Loved. Every time Ender gets hurt, tries again, outsmarts those trying to trip him up--I cry. He is us, we are him. My motherly heart had a hard time saying, "I loved this book so much!" when it was all about  a child being hurt, used, misused--and triumphant. As I read it now (the spark for this post) I read with all that controversy I mentioned earlier firmly in mind. It can't be helped--but it did not stop those tears when Ender is first forced to do or die.

Tigana. This is the one; the book I point to and say, "This is what made me a writer." I read it at first as any reader would--as a story of love and betrayal, adventure and hardship.

But then came the end...

I read the whole book believing one thing, and then got to the end and said to myself, "Oh! See what he did there? I didn't know this story or these characters at all!" When I read it the second time, because I now knew, I saw all the hints Mr. Kay wove in for me to follow. Details took on new meaning. Tigana taught me that good and evil depends upon the eyes one is looking out of in a way I might never have understood otherwise. It started the clicking that fit other writerly pieces into place, because Mr. Kay, in his brilliant way, taught me that creating a story isn't just pretty words that make adventures for our characters; he set me on the road to weaving tales rather than simply writing them.

These are the stories that linger for me, will linger all my life. What are yours?

~Terri-Lynne DeFino


Anonymous said...

Great post! I especially liked your comment about Enders's Game and separating the artist from the work. It's such an interesting question about how to think about the things we love.

The book that has influenced the way I think about the world since I was 15 and continues to be part of my thinking life is Our Town by Thorton Wilder. It's a play not a novel but I read it before I acted in it or saw it. Emily's monologue after she sees her 12th birthday always makes me cry.

Terri-Lynne said...

Hey, Mary Beth! Thanks for stopping in.

Ah, Our Town. I've never actually seen the whole play, but I have seen Emily's monologue performed. It is...yeah, wow.

I am reading Ender's Game for the second time right now, and I'm so glad I decided to. It's a book club book, and I read it...about seven years ago. I almost didn't. But--damn, is it good. It just keeps hitting me on so many levels. Whatever Cards thoughts and feelings on any of the issues he's being called a bigot on, I love Ender.

David Hunter said...

My three would all be books for children, historically based and full of unrepentant violence meted out upon the ungodly, generally with some relish and few qualms.

Bows Against the Barons by Geoffrey Trease. A Robin Hood story (with Robin as something of a bit-part) which I read many times when a child without any inkling as to the now fairly obvious socialist agenda (which is of course entirely laudable). Loads of incident, culminating in utterly futile rebellion, betrayal and a rather sordid end, ambushed in a bog. ' No Barons! No King!'

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. there will never ever be a better portrayal of pirates than found herein and anyone thinking otherwise is sadly deluded. While Trease's Robin may usefully instruct youth in contempt for the existing social order, Stevenson's Silver is a shining example of how to make one's way through duplicity and treachery, though when a youth I liked Smollett and Livesey better. 'Out lads, out, and fight 'em in the open! Cutlasses!'

Huntingtower by John Buchan. A middle-aged grocer, a poet, a few crippled war veterans and a small troop of delinquent boy scouts combine to foil a Bolshevik plot and save a (surprisingly resourceful for a book written in the 1920s, though Buchan was an early supporter of women's suffrage) princess. Dougal is as good an advert for child soldiers as you might wish to find. All the better for the dialogue being largely in Scots. There was a BBC six part drama based on the book which I remember as being excellent too. 'Ye'll no fickle Thomas Yownie!'

Debbie Christiana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Christiana said...

I thought I read The Giver in HS or college. Maybe I was supposed to and blew it off. It sounds familiar in some places but I don't remember the emotion, maybe I was too young. I will definitely try again now that I'm more mature :) I've heard they are making it into a movie.

I have so many books that 'linger' for me it's hard to pick a few. For some the whole book lingers, others, just parts of it or characters from it.

That's the wonder of reading. Nice post, Terri.

Terri-Lynne said...

David--ah! Treasure Island! You know, that's one I should re-read. I haven't read it since I was a kid sitting in a tree in my back yard. I think I can even get it free on my Kindle. Much as I love Muppet Treasure Island, it should NOT be my most lingering memory of that great classic. :-D

Terri-Lynne said...

Debbie--the Giver...oh, you must read it!!! You will absolutely love it. I promise.

The movie has been in the works for about a decade. I heard Jeff Bridges was going to star as the Giver. Then it faded out only to be resurrected every once in a while by hopeful fans, only to discover--no, not happening yet.

Now, IMDB tells me it's filming again. Yes, with Jeff Bridges as The Giver. Meryll Streep, Taylor Swift, and--wait for it--Alexander Skarsgard (from True Blood) are all in it.

Terri-Lynne said...

(From Mark, who asked me to assist him in circumventing authority to post this up for him while he is at school. Hehee!)
Excellent post, Terri!

I, too, grumble about the deconstructionist interpretation of Ender's
Game in light of more recent public statements by Card. I choose to
enjoy the stories.

David! Trease was one of my early favs! Awesome historical fiction. I
loved Message for Hadrian when I was twelve.

I have come to accept that I am a loyal reader. Folks I found early in
life continue to resonate with me as I march through the years.

Suitcliff's The Lantern Bearers, a text I've mentioned before, is
still one of my all time treasures. Her prose is so quiet. In some
ways, I 'hear' a lot of LeGuin in her stuff.

Speaking if LeGuin--her Earthsea Tales get more dog-eared every year.
I've worked them into my Sci Fi and Fantasy Lit courses now. Joy.

Two sets by CJ Cherryh: The Gate Novels (Ivrel, Well of Shuian, Fires
of Azaroth, and Exiles Gate) and her Faded Sun trilogy (Kesrith,
Shon-jir, and Kutath). Ripping. Those and Downbelow Station. All STAY.

CS Foresters Hornblower Chronicles, Cornwell's Sharpe novels, Uhtred
tales, and the Bolitho novels of Alexander Kent, some of Obrien's
stuff. I WILL try an historical fiction novel one day...

There are too many to list, now that you have made me think about it.
This means a trek to the basement and a return with a box of old
friends to put by the side of the bed for late night


Terri-Lynne said...

Sometimes I think, "I'm going to do a whole year of re-reads!" and then I think, "But I have so many books I want to read that I never have!" And then I think, "But re-reading an old favorite will give you something new to take away from the tale, and that means it's almost LIKE new, right?" And then I think, "You might have something there." And then I think, "I surely do. Let's see what's on the shelf."
And then I go into a book-love trance and when I come out of it, I've forgotten what I went to the shelves for. ;)

There are a few books that are up for a re-read. I'm doing Ender now. This year will see re-reads of The Giver (before the movie comes out!) as well as LeGuinn's The Dispossessed. I am hoping to get Tigana in there too, but it might fall victim to too many books/manuscripts, too little time.

Unknown said...

Terri, your words about these works make me want to read all of them! Adding the ever-growing pile, but I may push them past a few others already there. I could list three books (even more), but at the moment I cannot get a movie out of my head that's left me still deep in its clutches, in the way a great book does. In fact, both moviemakers and writer have the same wonderful task…to tell a powerful story. Aren't we lucky?

I saw "Inside Llewyn Davis" this weekend and walked away feeling as if for I'd lived in another man's shoes for an two hours. It was gritty, dirty, hopeful, sad, sang to my heart and, ye,t quite simple at its core. Guess a great movie, like a great book, draws us into another place, allows us to view the world through someone else's eyes. Many books have done the same for me, but I'm a little stuck in this film at the moment :-) Thought of you, too. There was the cat in the movie, whose attitude spoke volumes.

Terri-Lynne said...

Sharon--everyone in the world should read The Giver at least once. Seriously, if you put ANY book on your TBR pile, that should be it. Tremendously powerful. If I were forced to name my favorite book of all time, that would be it. If forced. Thankfully, I don't have to choose just ONE. :)

I've not even hear of Inside Llewellyn Davis. Betcha it's playing at the Bethel!

Asakiyume said...

I must, must, must read Ender's Game! We even own it--Younger Son received it for Christmas a few years ago. And yeah, the Giver really lingers. That last one, Tigana, I'd never even heard of, but I'll have to put it on my to-read list.

Asakiyume said...

I must, must, must read Ender's Game! We even own it--Younger Son received it for Christmas a few years ago. And yeah, the Giver really lingers. That last one, Tigana, I'd never even heard of, but I'll have to put it on my to-read list.

Terri-Lynne said...

Ender's Game--whatever you might think of anything else related to Orson Scott Card, whether other work or his opinions or what, Ender's Game is a masterpiece. You WILL cry, Francesca. Absolutely!

Tigana is, I have to say, the first one that always springs to mind when I'm asked about my favorite books, even before The Giver. Not because I loved it more, but because it hit me harder.