Some Strange and Marvelous Place


This week I’m remembering the first novel I ever fell in love with.

I read voraciously as a child, going through all the books in the children’s section of the local library and reading during classes instead of paying attention to the teacher. But Watership Down was a book on my mother’s bookshelf. I was in 7th grade, and for some reason or another I was home alone. I picked up the book and began reading. I’d finished it within a day or two. I couldn’t stop reading it. I loved it. I’d loved a lot of books in my childhood, but that was the first grownup book that captured my heart. This was what a novel could be. This was the kind of story I wanted to write. I finished the book and a short while later, read it over again.

I shall be forever grateful that this book is in the world.

Have you ever been amazed by a book?

“When Marco Polo came at last to Cathay, seven hundred years ago, did he not feel–and did his heart not falter as he realized–that this great and splendid capital of an empire had had its being all the years of his life and far longer, and that he had been ignorant of it? That it was in need of nothing from him, from Venice, from Europe? That it was full of wonders beyond his understanding? That his arrival was a matter of no importance whatever? We know that he felt these things, and so has many a traveler in foreign parts who did not know what he was going to find. There is nothing that cuts you down to size like coming to some strange and marvelous place where no one even stops to notice that you stare about you.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

I feel like this when I read a wonderful book. I close the book and look around wanting to share my amazement. Here! Have you seen? This? Look! Read!

But often everyone else already is in the know and know so much more. Or they have no interest in this other world. My mother already loved the book and no one else I knew had any interest in English countryside or rabbits. Rabbits? Once I told people the story was about rabbits, they’d frown and raise an eyebrow. Rabbits? Who read books about rabbits? Children!

Sigh. It’s a shame to miss out on a brilliant world because of preconceived notions about what one can or can not read, as if one can understand what one already knows. It isn’t a fantasy novel in any way. It’s not magical. It’s not anything but a compelling story about great characters. They just happen to be rabbits.







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