What A Girl Wants #1 — extended disco remix

The first What A Girl Wants post is up, and, as I suspected, I’m moved to comment over here at greater length. Colleen asked us about the titles we remembered from our teen years. Go over and read everyone’s answers, and then come back.

Here’s what I said there: I can’t choose a single title, so I’ll pick three ways I wanted to feel, and one or two books that fit each feeling.

1. That there was weight and resonance in seemingly random events, that I might be part of a larger, more meaningful story: Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, the way Will Stanton discovers his part in the struggle between the Dark and the Light.

2. That I was connected to friends: my whole circle, for reasons that now escape me, read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and delighted in quoting “Leper outcast unclean!” at each other.

3. Like I was getting away with something, learning things I wasn’t supposed to know: Mary Renault’s novels of ancient Greece and the fascinating gay couples that populated them; and in an entirely different mode, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Some expansions on these feelings and other books that fit them:

1. Much of my fantasy reading fits here — the Anne McCaffrey Pern books, Madeleine L’Engle. And like Laurel Snyder, I was enraptured by (and have previously blogged about) The Egypt Game; that sense of magic — and menace — being present in the everyday.

2. I read a lot of books that I’m not inclined to reread now because my friends were reading them. I loved the books then — see also, for instance, David Eddings — but what I loved, I see now, wasn’t so much the plots or the prose but the shared reading experience. I remember almost nothing about what happened in these books — what I remember is the excited conversations about them, and the ways we’d use the books to shape the role-playing games that also occupied a lot of our time.

3. I need to say more about Mary Renault. At a point in my life where crushes on girls coexisted with the casual, thoughtless homophobia that led to using the word “faggy” as a term of disapprobation, Mary Renault’s books provided an intricately detailed look at a society where men being lovers with men was part of what constituted the norm. I didn’t discover books with lesbian content until later — although I also remember being very struck by the fraught vampiric “relationship” between Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla and her victim.

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  • Gary
    June 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Oh, your choice of “The Dark is Rising” caught my eye. Definitely the favorite book of my childhood. I read it in 4th grade & have multiple copies of the sequence. Around the same time I read “A Wrinkle in Time.” And later I would get to the Pern books. But, I always remembered “3 from the circle, 3 from the track…”

    Sorry to hear about the theft, btw. I know how that feels. :(

  • Sara
    June 24, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks, Gary. I tend to reread The Dark is Rising in December; I like reading it at the “right” time of year. (Though ideally without the accompanying attack by the forces of evil…)