Tonight I started reading Jo Walton’s astonishing Among Others. I had to put it down halfway through because it was making me too sad that I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with my father.
To make myself feel better I went and found another excerpt from his fanzines to post. When he wrote this, he was 30, going to library school, living in Cleveland.
It may not be a misfortune that I didn’t discover the Christopher Robin stories until a somewhat advanced age. Some familiarity with the subject matter, or its atmosphere, adds to enjoyment, and while I did have a teddy bear once upon a time, I never had a nanny. Nor was there a gardener named Jonathan Jo, or anything else, on the family estate. A.A. Milne had in mind the particular element of upper-class English children to which he himself had belonged when he created Pooh and his friends, and certain of the appurtenances thereto might be unfamiliar to other children.
So why did I get my favorite nephew one of these books? For one very dangerous reason: I like them myself; and for one very excellent reason: children still like them. The projection of adults’ tastes into children’s literature is fraught with peril, to coin a phrase; I think even those supposedly trained in the field, such as librarians and teachers, may be guilty of it. Who knows what kids like but kids? That they do like Winnie-the-Pooh seems amply proven by the survival of the books through many printings.
Little Rickie has no nanny but his mother, the gardener and man-of-all-work is his father, and his life is about as different as can be from that lived by Christopher Robin in the Edwardian after-glow of an age. But does a child’s world change so much after all? If it does — if it has — if fantasy leaves it, then the world is lost, and Bradbury justified.