30 Novels, day 9: Descriptive of an important proceeding in the life of a reader.
At last, through her own mysterious sense of the ripeness of things, the librarian decided I was old enough.
At last I was allowed to climb up out of the kids’ section in the basement and venture into the tall, narrow, intimidating aisles of the adult section. There were so many books here. I didn’t know what I wanted to read, but I knew one thing: it was time to move beyond the slim children’s novels I had been reading. And so, to inaugurate my career as a grown-up reader, I was going to take out the biggest, fattest book I could find. There was still the hurdle of the librarian, of course. Being allowed into the adult section didn't mean she was going to let me sign out just anything. My choice would have to meet with her approval before she stamped that card and let me pass.
Alliteration has gone out of fashion in book titles these days, but it worked its magic on me then. A title caught my eye and I stopped. This was a pretty thick book, too. Solid and heavy, like a brick. And yet a quick flip-through showed me it had illustrations. So reading a grown-up book didn’t mean I’d have to completely abandon pictures along with the text, which I’d always liked. That was promising. And it looked like a funny book, too, judging by the pictures.
I took it to the librarian, and wonderful to relate, she let me sign it out. The book was The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens.
I didn't like the librarian in those days. The way she stood guard over the books like a cold-eyed sphinx. But now I think she must have been very wise. How do you get kids to want to read? Make the books hard to get at.
I carried Pickwick out of the library, and then he and his hilarious adventures carried me out of myself for days. From there I had to read everything else Dickens had written. And from there all the literature of the world opened up for me.
The book wasn't a brick. It was a door.