Last first week of school down, and I'm still going (moderately) strong, although I'm kind of staring into the abyss of overwhelmedness that is to come -- my guess I lose it early October, barely hang on until Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, become despondent that the winter will never end in February and then freak out that I'm graduating in April-May. But, you know, just a guess.
I'm thinking mostly today about books. The fantastic Sarah just started a book blog which is funny and smart and makes me feel really inferior about how few books I read this summer, but that's okay. I'm in the middle of The Known World which is fascinating, but surprisingly slow going, with a lot of characters and time and place shifting going on. I'm feeling ready for something a little more linear. . . and maybe not so sad. I just finished working on a sad play, and I could use a novel where everything more or less works out in the end.
I'm also thinking about books and the way that they can worm their way inside your brain, and how it can be great -- like, it's okay if everyone thinks I'm an eight-year-old freak, because Matilda could make people fly. It can also work not so well, when a book takes over your brain and won't give it back. I think that my innate anxiety about being a loser when I started playskool was infinitely heightened by reading Prep the week before I began my first year. The novel brought all my miserable eighth-grade emotions to the forefront and reduced me to an insecure fifteen-year-old. I don't know how quickly I would have felt comfortable in my own skin had I not read the book, but I have to say, if you're at all suceptible to private-school, not-having-the-right-clothes angst, don't read this book moments before diving into an all-new academic setting. In New England.
Finally, I'm thinking about books because Madeleine L'Engle died today and that makes me sad. Because she was an awesome writer and because she wrote books for an audience that NEEDED them. I remember walking around my second grade classroom trying to get people to read A Wrinkle in Time and nobody would because its first sentence is "It was a dark and stormy night." The books you read from age 8-14 are so important, such a lifeline -- partly because everything else is so hard -- and I feel nostalgic for that intensity of readership. I miss staying up late to find out what happened next. I miss wanting to read just one more chapter. I miss books that made sense of things that nobody I knew personally could explain to me. I want a book like that.