Monday, July 22, 2013

The Novelty of Going Back in Time

I grew up with a book practically attached to my arm, and somehow managed to develop a triangular thumb from keeping paperbacks wedged open hours on end. In a minute of inspiration (with the help of Amazon), I purchased a paperback copy of the Starlight Crystal for $0.01. This was my favorite book in high school, although I was a fan of a lot of Christopher Pike’s work. 
A lot of my high school days looked like this.
Reading his stories made me feel powerful and smart – things that are totally up my alley. I had completely forgotten what this particular story was about, but the cover art reminded me (in the cobwebby part of my brain) that the story affected me in a deep, unchangeable way.

When it arrived, I was disappointed at the thinness of it. I also laughed at myself for the label ‘reader,’ when most of the books I consumed in high school were on the order of a couple hundred pages at most. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix* was 870 pages, 570 pages short of War and Peace.

I should also mention that I've developed a bit of attention deficiency over the past few years. Back when I had an extremely long attention span, I’d spend hours cataloging and rehearsing the lyrics to songs like Jump Around and Slim Shady. Granted, there was a certain level of freedom not owning a car, having access to the internet, or paying bills.  The last time I did nothing for a stretch longer than a few minutes was sometime in 2008, when I was still convinced that I could change the entire world.

The lack of attention has spilled into my reading habit, and I have frequently picked up a book only to stop reading it 30 pages or so in. Perhaps the part of my intellect that thoroughly enjoyed young adult lit refuses to evolve into big-girl stories. There’s also a lot of crap out there that’s not worth reading, or it just takes too long to get into (Tolkien, Tolstoy).

As I opened up the yellowed pages, I expected another childhood memory to be ruined (like the time I watched a Strawberry Shortcake episode or ate a blueberry Pop-Tart - gah!), but my curiosity at that point had reached critical mass. I shouldn't have worried – I inhaled the book in one day.

I probably won’t do the book justice with my description, so here's what I liked about it. It was the first book in ‘my collection’ with a Buddhist flavor; it was a story about space-time, destiny, and discrimination of the real and temporary. Writing the narrative was probably tough, because it's through the lenses of a teenage girl, and also has a striking vision of how galaxies work with the mechanisms of spirituality. When I read this book the first time, it was hard to understand the concepts of permanence because my concept of forever was sort of tiny (after all, I had four friends that made a BFF pact). It also didn't help that my only resource for space-time concepts was contained in a dusty copy of A Brief History of Time on our bookshelf. However, the story of looking for someone special across galaxies and centuries captured my heart, and it was the first story I enjoyed reading on how 'things happen for a reason.' 

I was pumped after reading it again. It meant that I do not have the attention span of a gnat, and I remembered how great it was to enjoy young adult fiction (or philosophical stories about aliens). That said, I'm up for suggestions on what to read next! Please post in the comments.

*I read this entire series as well as the Hunger Games trilogy. Both were good, but Harry's story moved much quicker (and who can argue with the cool factor of magic?).