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To Kill a Mockingbird and Why the Past Can Stay There

I met a girl over the weekend who was reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time.

My cousin was in a high school play in the Chicago suburbs, so I took a train out there, arrived ridiculously early, because that's how I do, and ended up sitting on a bench outside the high school theater with The Fault in Our Stars and a short attention span, leading me to spend a decent amount of time looking around. The girl sitting next to me was not only a huge fan of the book I was reading, but had to read TKAM for school. She was about 100 pages past the required reading for Monday, because she "liked it so much." And damn. If there's gonna be one book it's hard to ruin through school assignment, it's TKAM.

I rarely experience the jealousy of seeing someone have a first-time reading experience, but how can you not have a twinge of that for TKAM? Fortunately, it was more delight than jealousy, as I got to ask what part she was on (the trial) and then excitedly tell her I'd leave her alone to read more, as when I was 14, the last thing I wanted was a bunch of nosy adults forcing me to be polite and answer their silly questions about my book.

Being an aforementioned Adult with Responsibilities (and a crippling addiction to the internet), I rarely get to the point with a book where I'll stay up all night reading it, or forsake practical matters in favor of it ("practical matters" here include watching Doctor Who), but I used to. And seeing that girl so stuck in her book reminded me of times that happened, most of them years in the past.

Ethan Frome elicits a rather mixed reaction from its readers, but it was one of my read-until-1-a.m.-and-cry books. And I specifically remember a few years ago, yelling at myself as time went on and it got closer and closer to when I had get up for work, but Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers was SO GOOD AND I COULD NOT STOP.

I'm sure most people have a Harry Potter story, because if you were reading that series as it was released, how could you not? And on the even less exalted front, there were a few in the Thoroughbred series that'd keep me up. Because horses are great, people.

I'd be sad about these experiences all being over, but something I realized in my teens prevents me. I think it was after I had suddenly read an older book or watched a movie from the '40s, and I said 'This has been here all this time. This amazing thing has existed for all these decades, and I have just discovered it. How many other things like this are out there?' Not to mention the new amazing things being created. 

So while I do have that twinge of jealousy when I see people experiencing beloved things for the first time, it's tempered and then overshadowed by the knowledge that there is a practically inexhaustible supply of things that will be newly beloved throughout life. The future is exciting, so let's not yearn for the past.


  1. When did we become adults?! This is upsetting news.

    I can't remember the last book that kept me up all night. Probably something by Roald Dahl. *sigh* The good old days.

  2. How optimistic :) You know I'm excited for all of the great books that I haven't yet found and read... but then I start to have a slight panic attack b/c I'm afraid I'll die before I get to read all the awesome books....

    Oh, and I'm a bratty adult - I still hate it when people try to talk to be about the book I'm very clearly trying to read.

  3. Now I'm a responsible adult with a responsible job I don't stay up all night reading any more, even for the most amazing books. It's sad now I think of it...

    I remember reading Anne of Green Gables by the light of only a streetlamp when I was about 8 and my Mum had told me to go to sleep already!

  4. I was totally the kid with the book under her pillow. Reading in the dark for so many nights probably explains my gargantuan glasses....sigh. It was totally worth it.

  5. @Megs I am immensely bummed that Blogger has for some reason reverted to this comment form. But ROALD DAHL ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME.

  6. The future IS exciting. And also, I don't like horses.

  7. I'm currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. I can definitely see it as a stay-up-all-nighter. :)3

    I agree! So many other things are out there for us to experience for the first time. I love that "this has been out there forever and I'm just discovering it" feeling. :D


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