Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Calling for your great loves!!

I am back from a totally relaxing weekend of camping, which included great food, great friends, and a great amount of much-needed doing nothing. I was totally relaxed, until I came back to a passed deadline on final Max and Menna edits, school work past due, and a really long backlist of other stuff. Ugh. Adulthood is tough.

I am moving at the beginning of October. I’ve been packing up boxes all weekend, and, as always, am shocked by the sheer number of books I own. I packed up 4 full egg-carton sized boxes of books, and this only cleaned off one of four shelves, and took care of the stacks of books lying all over my bedroom.

We’re moving to a smaller house, and I feel somewhat compelled to shed some of my considerable clutter. I am, believe it or not, incredibly sentimental, so I have a hard time parting with things. Apparently, the idea of parting with books is detestable to me. I tried. I convinced myself that I did not, in fact, need more than 500 paperbacks (from my bedroom alone), and that at least 50 of these are books that I didn’t even like. Despite, I found only 8 that I was able to put in the Goodwill pile.

And why is this? I’m actually alarmed by my inability to get rid of books. I am sentimental, for sure, but these hold little to no sentimental value to me. I am surely not materialistic, and so it isn’t the number of my possessions that is crucial. Nonetheless, even books I didn’t like contribute to this symbol of my collective knowledge and experience. I also firmly believe that books have the capacity to change you.

It’s a discussion I have had with my roommate many, many times. She is mystified when I tell her that stories have changed me—not my mood, but the way I think about and interact with the world. Now, the books (and movies and songs) that have done this for me comprise a very short list of the best of the best. But they do exist. And I can’t get rid of books, because what if I happen to pick one up at just the right moment, when I am in the perfect state of mind, and it becomes the next book that changes me. I love that feeling, and I cannot get rid of something that may someday have that power over me.

And so, I ask everyone—what books/movies/songs (if any) have changed you? I don’t necessarily mean your favorite book/movie/song, or the one that has the most awesome explosion, or the best sex scene or anything like that. Are there other people out there who have been so moved by a story that it changed them on some basic, fundamental level? Or am I just weird? If you do have a life altering book, share a little bit about it with us.

I am aiming to have some life-altering sushi from Chiyo tonight and settle in with a Paranormal State DVD to guide me through my edits… as I’ve mentioned, Ryan Buell (Paranormal State’s founder and a man who is near the top of the dreamy men list) has written a book that comes out this month. Apparently, we can demand that his book tour bring him through Baltimore. Another chance to chat with him might alter my way of interacting with the world. I think you should all go DEMAND IT! You know... for the sake of... literature :0)


  1. I'm TOTALLY with you. Only my inability to get rid of books (though I will get rid of novels if they're not to my liking) is more based on this ridiculous fear that some day someone is going to knock on my door, put a gun to my head and say "if you cannot produce a work by Heidegger, a play by August Wilson, a social history of diamonds, a book about the fishing industry and a novel by Gregory Maguire, you will die."

    I will tell your roommate when I see her this weekend that I understand the "a book will change you" concept. I have a Master's Degree and half of a PhD in revolutionary history because when I was 17, I read Leon Uris' Mila 18 and it completely changed the way I saw the world. When I was 21 and had just lost a very good friend and former lover, I read Marguerite Duras' The Lover for my existentialism class and it was EXACTLY the book I needed to read at the time. When I was 25 and in the death throes of my engagement, I read Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being and it simultaneously helped me to understand the cheater and made me pine for Prague -- an impulse pursued because when I was 20 the combination of Kerouac's On the Road, the movie Almost Famous and the Simon and Garfunkel song America came together in a perfect storm of a restlessness that has never abated. When I was 27, I read Kundera's Ignorance and it made me okay with the fact that all you guys in Baltimore were living your lives without me and that just because I was no longer privy to the inside jokes, it didn't mean that you didn't love me anymore or that I didn't have my own life with my own inside jokes with other people.
    Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (which I read last summer) raised a bunch of questions that made my doctoral research better, Wicked (which I've read every summer for the last 12 summers) and the rest of Gregory Maguire's Oz series have changed the way I appreciate children's stories and that there's always something more complex than what is on the surface.

    There are more, but we can discuss when I see you on Sunday! I suspect it will make for good conversation!

  2. Totally agree that these can impact profoundly...Dead Poets' Society is one of the first movies I remember changing me, or maybe just the first one I remember changing me as an adolescent. Don't so many of the movies we watch and stories we read as kids shape us? So many books were life-altering for me growing up; Neverending Story (movie) shaped me in imagination, as well as the idea that one person can make a difference; Anne of Green Gables (books) shaped me in developing a rich inner world/life and attempting not to worry what others thing of me; Little Women encouraged me to seek out the woman I am. As a young adult, The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge altered how I see myself in relationship to God. Anything by Madeleine L'Engle, fiction or non, helps me think outside my usual box about God, family, the world around me, and myself, but specifically the story of her marriage in Two-Part Invention helped me discover the kind of marriage I wanted one day. I often seem to end up with a book, song, or movie that is significant to significant seasons of my life. Too many songs to list here, I suppose, but thanks for the question to ponder!

  3. movies that changed me ?
    to kill a mocking bird ( book too read many times at different times in my life )
    Deer Hunter ( i walked dazed around NYC for hours afterwards weeping inside )
    Shawshank Redemption
    and all the old Christmas movies for ritual and hope
    Bill Bryson walk in the woods
    Annis nin
    Barbara Kingslover Prodigal spring
    catcher in the rye ( and again different reactions different times of my life0

  4. Your roommate isn't "mystified" by life changing art, only your compulsion to keep books you don't like!