17.5.08

Current Reading

"It is customary to speak of children as vessels into which books are poured, but I think the reverse analogy is more accurate: children pour themselves into books, changing their shape to fit each vessel. 'I have been Tom Jones,' said David Copperfield; he was also Roderick Random and, armed with the centrepiece of an old set of boot trees, 'Captain Somebody of the Royal British Navy, in danger of being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his life at great price.' We haven't become ourselves yet, so we try on literary identities, fantastic at first and then closer and closer to home. Am I more like Mole or like Toad? I asked myself at six, undeterred by such trifling details as size and species. At eight, when gender was still no barrier: Aravis or Shasta? At sixteen: Dorothea or Rosamond? I think that's why so many children prefer fiction and so many adults prefer nonfiction. As we age, we coagulate. Our shapes become fixed and we can no longer be poured."
~ Anne Fadiman, in her introduction to Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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