I recently read Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in her Life by Annie Spence as part of my 2018 reading challenge. And I was intrigued by the idea of going through the various books in your life and reflecting on what they’ve meant to you. It’s kind of funny because, in some ways, the books, stories, and poems that I write are love letters to various people, aspects of myself, or to the world in general. I’m not divulging names. Don’t ask.
Anyway, I just loved this idea and thought I would give a shot to writing letters to the books in MY life. As I am a librarian, (though lapsed) I feel no compunction about stealing Spence’s idea to use subject headings to introduce my books.
And so, here is my first letter.
FICTION – Ende, Michael
– Childhood Obsession
– Peanut-butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Dear The Neverending Story,
It’s been about 30 years since I first read you. Oh jaysus, did I just say 30 YEARS?! Shit, I need a Mylanta.
Okay, yes, I read you the first time when I was about seven or eight. We had just moved to Greenwood, IN and, until that time, my consuming love for your movie adaptation (the first one, not the crummy sequels), had taken up 90 minutes of every day. Like, seriously, I watched that damn movie EVERY DAY. For years. I had the dialogue for the entire thing memorized. Ask my mother, she would put the movie on for me and then sneak away to take a nap.
Well, when we moved to Greenwood, my mother decided it was time for me to read the source material. YOU. So, she took me to our local library (Ha-cha!) and we asked the librarian behind the adult reference desk (yes, in those far-gone times, you were shelved in the adult section rather than in the YA department), and she took us right to you.
You were so beautiful, even though the plastic wrapping your dust jacket was grimed around the edges and curling at the corners. I hugged you to my chest and we took you home. When I opened you up I was enchanted to see that, instead of plain black script, you were printed in alternating red and green ink. Damn, your hardcover editions must have cost a butt-load to print! I immediately set out on my journey.
I can’t remember exactly how long it took me to read you that first time. All I remember was asking my mother for peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches to eat in my room (just like Bastian in the movie version) while I lay on my bed and turned your pages. I also remember being pearl-clutchingly shocked when Gmork said “damn.” Naughty creature of darkness!
Holy hell! You were like what I imagine LSD would feel like (notice I said imagine. I’ve never tried LSD). You were so wise and crazy and playful and tragic. When I got to the point where the Childlike Empress climbs up to the Old Man of Wandering Mountain to demand he read her The Neverending Story, which would unravel all the story told thus far and necessitate him writing it again, I actually threw the book across the book. Not out of anger, but because I was so wigged out.
To me, you are the epitome of fantasy. Nothing can top you or outdo you for sheer brilliance. And I often go back to your pages to relive those startling moments when Atreyu approaches the Southern Oracle, or confronts Gmork, or when Bastian is ensnared by the traitorous Xayide.
But, even more than your adventure, dynamic characters, and lovely prose you taught me that it’s possible to go on after life kicks you in the teeth. And that dreams aren’t something you should leave behind in childhood. I still use my imagination all the time – I’d be lost without it. I firmly believe the world would be a better place if we fostered the expression of imagination throughout people’s lifetimes.
For one Christmas after I first read you, my parents gave me this small, blue duffel bag with yellow handles filled with books (still one of the all-time best presents I’ve EVER received). And your paperback edition was among them. True, the paperback had all black ink instead of the enchanting red and green, but you were filled with just as much magic and discovery as ever. I now own both your hardback and paperback editions and treasure them both.
Anxiously awaiting that other story for another time,