I’ve been reading The Lies of Locke Lamora. I like it well enough, but I haven’t been committed to it or anything. The first time I started it, in fact, I got bored. This time I’ve been reading steadily but have found it easy to put down.
Today I was reading for a few moments at lunch, and I got to a scene where Locke Lamora is in serious danger of his life, having been forced into an untenable position. The danger is palpable and real, and while I didn’t think Locke would die if I had thought about it, I was so wrapped up in the few pages that when he was rescued, I actually felt tears come to my eyes in relief. His friends were so worried about him! And then the next few pages go on, and several other Very Serious Things happen, and Locke vows revenge…
and I realized the book had wormed its way into my soul after all.
When I started reading the first Aubrey/Maturin novel, Master & Commander, it was a little heavy going at first. It starts out slow, there’s a lot of jargon to pick up, Stephen’s character is fairly dull at the beginning.
But then, out of nowhere, there’s a scene where Jack is complaining to Stephen that he’s got to convene a court martial for a sailor who was caught committing “the unnatural crime of sodomy on a goat”, leading to the following exchange:
“What will happen to him?”
Oh he’ll be hanged. Run up at the yardarm."
“That seems a little extreme.”
“Of course it is. The goat must be slaughtered too - that’s only fair - and served out to the mess that informed on him.”
“Could you not set them both ashore - on separate shores if you have strong feelings on the moral issue - and sail quietly away?”
“Perhaps there is something to what you propose. A cup of tea? Do you take milk, sir?”
“Why, I suppose it is.”
“Perhaps without milk, then, if you please.”
I laughed so hard my kids came in demanding to know what was so funny. I finished that book then the next 19, and never looked back.
I think it was the action scenes in the Aubrey-Maturin series that absolutely hooked me, but I came to love the humor more after the first couple of books. I honestly think I missed a lot of it at first, as I was adjusting to the language.
“A Game of Thrones.” I won’t spoiler it, but if you’ve read it, you know the surprise that comes about halfway through. It was the point that I knew that Martin wasn’t going to pull any punches with his characters.
And a similar event about three quarters of the way through the second book just solidified it for me.
The first time I read the first Harry Potter book, I was entertained and amused, but I didn’t get all the fuss. When I got to the end and the big reveal was not who you expected it to be, based on all those other children’s books I’ve read in my life, I knew it was something special.
This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.
I totally know what you mean. When I read Lies of Locke Lamora, I’d recently read The Bourne Identity (or possibly another book by that author), and was really annoyed by how the brilliant protagonist was constantly one step ahead of everyone else and never seemed to be in any actual danger. For the first half of Locke Lamora, I thought the book had the same flaw.
I was wrong.
In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (not Northern Lights, I think), it was a different moment that got me: the Panzerbjorn. Their introduction took my breath away.
Similarly, in the first chapter of Perdido Street Station, a guy is sitting at the breakfast table with his girlfriend, and they’re sharing a quiet meal, and I realized at some point that her head was a giant scarab, and I was hooked.
I won’t name the book so as not to spoil, but those who have read it will know exactly what I’m talking about.
On my first reading, at the line “And none of them ever saw Stu Redman again” I screamed, jumped up and threw the book across the room. I sat there crying for the longest time. It’s a good thing I was home alone. Eventually I walked over and picked the book up, sat back down and continued reading. I’m glad I did. It was such a dirty trick the writer pulled, but the book became my all-time favorite and I’ve read it dozens of times since then.
I was a little uncommitted to The Hunger Games, since Twilightmania has made me very dubious of any young adult book phenomenon, but this passage did it for me:
… So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.
In the biography I’m reading now, The Hare With Amber Eyes, the part at page 80 where we learn that the author’s real-life great great grandfather is the man in the top hat at the back of this Renoir painting:
When I was 12, I read The Neverending Story, and when I noticed I had only about a chapter left to read, I cried because I didn’t want it to end. That’s not a joke on the title – although I was a real bookworm as a kid (and still am, of course), this was the first book I had encountered where the very act of reading it was immensely pleasurable. The world that Michael Ende had created was so intriguing and creatively stimulating that I was terribly sad to leave it.