Wednesday, January 28

Laura Miller, Part 2

Reading Laura Miller's The Magician's Book: a Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia was a pleasure on many fronts. We usually enjoy reading about books and writers we like and more often read these after the event, just as we read a movie review after seeing the movie, partly to see what another person thought of it and partly to relive the pleasure of watching it. So all through Miller's book we have a great romp through Narnia. But at the same time, Miller writes about the act of reading and how reading develops in children, and about her own life as well. Here's a passage that speaks to me:

"Like many great readers, Lewis regarded his time alone as his real life. By the age of nine -- the same time as which I was thinking that my hunger for Narnia might kill me -- he too was 'living almost entirely in [the] imagination....' Like Lewis's, my material life often seemed to me nothing more than the drab and shadowy interludes between the hours when I could read and retreat to an interior realm.... I sometimes wonder if this kind of inward-turning, inward-dwelling, probably unhealthy temperament is acquired or inherited....did I perhaps get my dreaming ways from my father, who liked nothing better than to escape the rumpus of family life and work alone in the garden?."

I too sometimes wonder where my predominant traits come from. My parents liked to read but not to garden, and I can see now that they were in some ways people who enjoyed quiet and solitude. For the gardening gene I have to reach back to my maternal great-grandfather, who kept pencilled notes and page references on the endpapers of books and who grew nasturtiums and a vegetable garden in Middletown, Rhode Island.

Continuing the garden theme, Miller writes, "Gardens speak to people of this solitary temperament. Even those of us who don't tend the real ones find the idea of gardens, especially walled ones, evocative.... Garden are man-made concentrations of the natural world, places where nature is trained to seem more itself than it is when left to its own devices. In a way, the artificiality of gardens is like the artificiality of stories, which take the components of life and arrange them into forms that intensify and order them, saturating them with meaning."

Luckily, where I live you can practically garden all year round. Winter is the dormant season, but it's also mild and the ground is rarely frozen. And the long winter nights make lots of time for reading.

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