The first novel you remember reading
I can’t remember. The prompt even gives me an easy out…I don’t have to remember the first novel I read, just the first one that I remember that I read. And I really just don’t know. So instead, I give you the first novel I didn’t read.
In third grade, I was excited when my teacher announced that we would read this book together. Now, I don’t know why. I guess I had heard about it somewhere or it’s part of a collective subconscious. Reading the book for class meant that we would be assigned one or two chapters to read a night along with a page of questions to answer and vocabulary words to learn.
I don’t remember how it happened or when it happened, but pretty early on I decided I hated this book. Maybe because even as an eight-year old I thought the Christian imagery was pretty heavy-handed. So I stopped reading. I stopped doing my school assignment. Somehow, I got by with decent grades. Maybe a friend and I talked about it and I pretended to have read it, I don’t know. But I moved on with my life.
In college, I decided I would try again. By this time I loved Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and people were recommending the book to me, thinking that if I loved those I would love this. I started the series again with The Horse and His Boy (it was the only one I found in the used bookstore), and I really liked it. I was able to get over the fact that the boy shared his name with a soft drink.
Around the time I read this, I was studying Arabic lit, and I could see how this book was inspired by The Arabian Nights. So I decided to give my old nemeses The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe another chance.
I was sorry I did. I hated it. It put me in a terrible mood, and I still wasn’t able to finish it. I hated that the witch was evil and that’s all. No explanation, no, well, you have to see things from her point of view. And I don’t just mean Gregory Maguire never wrote a fanfic from the witch’s perspective. I mean Lewis didn’t think his readers would ever wonder what her raison d’etre was. Don’t get me wrong, this is also a fault I see in The Lord of the Rings, but I’m able to justify it by reminding myself that the books I read were only a fraction of the story Tolkien wanted to tell.
I find it remarkable that Tolkien himself didn’t really like Narnia. “Tolkien disliked the first Narnia book, published in 1950, telling the author it had too many clashing elements and was pushing the Christianity “message” too far. He also apparently “hated” Lewis’s allegorical fight between good and evil, with Jesus represented by Aslan the Lion.” Wow, so as an eight-year) old, I totally agreed with Tolkien. (But his books weren’t any more entertaining to me then either.) Zeal of a convert, I guess. And whose fault was that, Tolkien?