Annoying Childhood Books

My niece is reading the last chapter of a book I read when I was her age (and loved) out loud and it is super annoying.  I remember my oldest sister being somewhat annoyed when I read those books (out loud) but I didn’t understand why.  I loved them… until I didn’t.  A fast reader I sped through the series probably a lot faster than the author or publishers ever intended.  I would be finished with a book in a day or two and move on to the next one.  That one done in the next day or two, I’d be on to the next.  I read so many of those damn fucking books in such quick succession that I started to hate the protagonist.  She was such a pushy know it all, I couldn’t figure out why she was such the darling.  Why were those other kids friends with her?  Why did all those adults put so much trust in her?  Why was that boy so devoted to her when she treated him like crap and flirted with other, wealthier boys?

Reading that series was like reading the soap opera of Christian tween mysteries.  The series would be as if Encyclopedia Brown and Sally Kimball were dating, but Sally was seeing Bugs Meany on the side; however they all put their differences aside once a week at Sunday School.  That was this book series.  And if that were the premise of the Encyclopedia Brown stories, they would be just as tedious as the other (with the female protagonist – lest anyone accuse me of finding her tiresome because she was a girl).

All that aside, it’s amazing to me that I read and enjoyed over thirty of those books when I was eleven and twelve.  They were my favorites, I wanted them for Christmas and birthdays; when I finished the ones I had I cried out for “More!  More!” and was forced to wait until either I could buy more for myself or the next gift giving holiday rolled around.  But now, seventeen years later, I listen to another eleven year old reading the stories aloud and I am amazed these books were so enjoyed.  Meant for young readers, yes, sure, they are, but, come on, so was Little Women and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and those are books that can be enjoyed as much by adults as they can by children.  The writing in those books and stories are interesting and funny and the writing is easy for young people, but doesn’t belittle their comprehension, like many intended for young readers.

The mystery book series about the twelve year old girl who is smarter than everyone around her in 1900 North Carolina IS written for young readers, and it, clearly, is engaging (I read over 30 of them!), and they should remain in one’s youth.  Right there alongside the American Girl books, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, and, yes, Encyclopedia Brown.  Some books intended for young readers transfer well into adulthood (Phillip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Madeleine L’Engle), but some do not.  This is what I have learned while visiting with my niece this week.

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Travel

There are a few things that I truly love and one of them is traveling.  I love traveling.  I absolutely love it.  I love getting on trains and buses and airplanes and going somewhere, anywhere; it doesn’t much matter where I am going, I love going there.  The time I took a bus to Worcester (ok, that trip sort of sucked, however it was still) was as exciting as the time I took an airplane to London.  Traveling is such a bizarre and wonderful reminder of how diverse and interesting people are.

Sure, humans are assholes.  I just read an article about how humans’ production of chemical pesticides are leading to the decline of the honeybee which is leading to the decline of the pollination of certain (many) plants that humans and other animals eat on a regular basis (and make money by producing) — we’re masochistic twerps.  But we’re infinitely interesting.

I was sitting in Dewey Square in the heart of Boston’s Financial District, where a Farmer’s Market sets up on Thursdays.  There I saw a variety (not a wide variety, but still) of people.  There were people who, like me, were coming from or going to South Station and other destinations, there were young and old professionals, white collar and working class, babies with their moms and nannies, dogs and children, and, my personal favorites, dirty, pierced, dreadlocked hippie musicians (hot) just trying to get to New Hampshire playing for tips next to the hipster with the skinny tie hawking caffeine from his Coffee Trike (The Coffee Trike, that’s right, and I’m on my way to Portland – don’t get me wrong, it’s equally hot, for oddly not that different reasons).  People never cease to amaze me (and bore me, but that’s a different topic).  And that’s why I love places like city parks and train stations and airplanes: it’s a great way to watch people in a vacuum.  They can’t escape your observation, and, let’s be honest, your scrutiny.  And, as mysterious as people try to be, they are never more so themselves as when they are in transit.

This morning I took a commuter train into Boston full of professionals on their way to their places of business and a handful of other travelers with further destinations.  Next I am going to take a bus to the airport where nearly everyone is departing the city for places not here.  That will be interesting and exciting to see what people choose to do while they await their next destination.

(And I now sound like I’ve been watching a little too much “Dead Like Me” — except I get to go too.)