Saturday, July 17, 2010

The anxiety of influence

If you asked me to name some of the books that changed my life, I would begin with A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. I'd add Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and specifically The Grey King. Those of you who read this blog regularly, you know that. 

I'd add the Bordertown series (edited originally by the extraordinary Terri Windling, and currently in the gifted hands of Ellen Kushner and Holly Black.) Bordertown was the fantastic place I always wanted to live in. More than Narnia (which, let me assure you, I actually tried to get to), more than Middle Earth, I wanted to live in Bordertown. (Although it is not canon, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks has a very Bordertown feel. And is why I went to law school in Minneapolis. I am not making that up.)

I'd also include Robin McKinley's Deerskin, which saved my life.

The book I would not mention immediately, even though I love it, even though I have read it many, many times, even though I am trying to think up a class that would allow me to teach it, is Stephen King's It. 

But It should be. Oh, It should be.

It's the storm drains that made me realize how deep that story had gotten into my blood. Ever since I read It, I've had what I view as a healthy suspicion of storm drains. In my old neighborhood, where I was growing up in Washington, I would give them a wide berth, making sure I stayed far enough out of range of whatever thing might be lurking there. But then, in Minneapolis, there just really weren't any in the places where I walked my dog, or along the parkway that I ran. 

Now I'm on the East Coast. Not quite in New England, and certainly not in Derry (and dear members of the facebook group that wishes Derry existed: Are you completely mad? Have you read those books?!) But the storm drains are creepier. There are more of them. They look like places where the worst sorts of things could be hiding, ready to offer you a balloon, because really, we all float here.

And I realized how deep, how visceral my fear of them is on my run this morning, as I was dragging my out of shape self up a (conveniently labeled by road sign in case of doubt) hill, sticky with humidity even that early in the morning, calves trembling, thighs on fire. Without even thinking about it, I was zigging and zagging across the shoulder of the road, so I could keep a safe margin between my feet and the drains.


  1. Hm. Maybe I will be sure to NOT read It. Seeing as I had the same reaction to mirrors for several weeks after seeing the horribly cheesy "What Lies Beneath," I'm not sure that a well-written piece of fear would be good for my mind.

    Also, road signs that say "Hill" are awesome.

  2. The thing is, I highly recommend the book. I mean, yes, it will scare the daylights out of you, possibly permanently. But it is also the best written book I have ever read on the power of childhood and what we lose as we become adults.

    Maybe read it with your snuggly dog next to you?

  3. Wow. As a new reader of your blog, I hadn't seen this list of books, which include some of my favorite, most formative reads. Up to and including It.

    I *like* you!

  4. Thank you, Wendy. It's always such a delight for me to find people who share my favorite books - like finding a kindred spirit.

  5. I remember how the drains were always directly opposite each other in the old neighborhood, so no side of the road was safe. Cars be damned, I would walk up the center of the street.