Thursday, April 2, 2009

A fantasy life.

When I was twelve years old, I wandered into my Dad's bedroom looking for something to read. He always had stacks and stacks of books, A book cover caught my attention.

"What's that?" I asked, picking it up and staring at the soft fantasy cover, a mountain and billowy trees, if I remember.

"Oh, you might like that," my Dad said.

I opened up the book, and read the first line.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit...."

That's when my life was highjacked.

My family never knew what hit me. I became obsessed, reading the trilogy over and over again that summer. I fought with my sisters over reading rights, and it was a disaster when one of them left the Two Towers out on the lawn. I read it anyway, twisting the bloated paper into a readable format.

My brother was home that summer and was in the play, The Fantasticks, and that was the soundtrack of that summer. I still can't listen to Try to Remember, without an overwhelming nostalgia. Overwhelming.

What you love at 12, you love for life. I searched the library for something, anything that would fill that need. I couldn't find anything outside of children's fantasy, which barely sufficed.

It wasn't until about 5 years later that 'modern' fantasy became a strong genre, with books in every bookstore. I was in a college bookstore, and from the corner of my eye I caught the cover of a book. I remember veering toward the book rack, drawn to it like a laser.

A Frazzeta cover to the first Conan book. I found and abandoned Lord Foul's Bane (stupid book), I read The Sword of Shannara (a complete copycat of LOTR's) without criticism. (When I see the excitement of young kids over Eregon -- which to me is completely unreadable -- I understand that there must be something there....)

I did read many other books, but the Lord of the Rings was my touchstone.

It's why I became a writer.

It's why I own a bookstore with comics and books and games and toys.

My mother indulged me, buying the Hildebrant calendars every year. Eventually, my love started to fade a little bit. I got frustrated with waiting for the next fantasy chapter, and disgusted by the sameness of it all. I continued to read S.F. but mostly started reading mysteries.

Still, when I see the look in the young girl's eyes when they talk about Twilight, or when a young boy talks about Harry Potter, young and old talking about Star Wars, even titles that have no real resonance with me, such as G.I. Joe and Transformer --- I know exactly how they feel.


Mark said...

Thanks for this post Duncan -- a beautiful mix of sweet nostalgia and wisdom. You've made my day, and it is only 5 am.

Lyle said...

It's funny, I don't remember where I found Tolkein or he found me but after reading his books (my very first hard bound purchase), I shared them with my wife who equally fell in love with them.

Years later, when I was dinking around trying to teach myself how to use the guitar, I wrote my first and last song based upon the story. I remember sharing it with a close friend who afterward with a screwed up face, said, "What are you singing about?".

Thanks for sharing that Duncan.