Friday, October 25, 2013

Thinking about my old (young) friend...

As a teenager with a love of books, I frequently went to bookstores seeking out "new" old classics.
It gave me a gloriously pretentious  feeling to buy and force my way through Plato's Republic, or Les Miserables. Of course, I hated those particular books and only read them so I could say that I had.
Other books, like Little Women, the Count of Monte Cristo, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and The Scarlet Letter were like honey to me. Oh, classics! How I loved them. I found many on my parents' shelves and sought out many on my own.

I still remember one specific conversation I had with a Barnes and Noble employee when I was about 16. I had never read Peter Pan, but loved the Disney movie (and Hook), and wanted to get my hands on the classic, but wasn't sure who wrote it or when it had been written.
So I sought out the knowledge of a bookkeeper.

Me: I'm looking for the original Peter Pan book.
Bookkeeper: We have several illustrated kids' books of the Disney version.
Me: Okay, but I don't want that. I want the original. Isn't it a classic?
Bookkeeper: Actually, I don't think so. I think it's just an old fairy tale without an original author, something just passed on verbally like the Little Mermaid.
Me: Oh. Really? I thought... Okay. Will you at least check for a oldish version of it for me?
Bookkeeper: Sure. (Typing) Theres a book called "Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry.
(I stood there for several seconds, trying to decide if Dave Barry sounded familiar enough for this to possibly be the original book about Neverland.)
Me: Sure, let's try that.

Soon after I got back home (with Peter and the Starcatchers in hand), I remembered that the Little Mermaid actually had an author, Hans Christian Andersen.
Then I read about one page in Peter and the Starcatchers and realized that it had come out earlier that year.
I began to suspect that I had dealt with an idiot at the book store.

But with a charming new book in hand, I found I didn't mind terribly.

A bit after that, I saw Finding Neverland (and obviously loved it and cried through the whole thing). But I learned that Peter Pan was a play and a book by James Barrie.
So I found the book for real.
And I read it.
A friend told me yesterday that she finally saw the Disney movie.
For the first time.
She cried of course, because Peter Pan is the greatest story of all time- even the watered-down and altered kids' version.
I've been thinking about Peter a lot this week anyway, since it's fall.
I would say that I always think of Peter Pan in the fall- except that I also always think of him in the spring. And the summer and winter.

With every season, and change of the weather.

A couple years ago, when I was still at school- I still had yet to buy my own copy of Peter Pan (I kept waiting, wanting the perfect book- not just some ol' paperback with a picture of a redheaded kid on it.) So I periodically checked out the novel or play from the library to reread.
This time, I got the play. It was an old hard cover book, highlighted and scribbled in by many students over the years (theater kids and English kids alike, it seemed.)
That in itself drew me to that copy of the play. I love a book that's been written in, especially by someone else. Full of their little notes, and underlinings. Hearts in the margins, or instructions like, "said in despair."
I mean.

The front said "Peter and Wendy," which is my favorite thing for it to say (sometimes it says that, sometimes it says "Peter Pan," but let's be honest. This isn't a play about Peter Pan. This is a play about Wendy and Peter together.)

Anyway. I grow distracted.
The inside cover had an old date on it. And the words "First Edition."
And after a little googling and verifying and gasping and realizing, I figured out that the copy I had picked up from the library was the best thing I'd ever held in my hands.
I kept renewing it. I kept it extremely late and overdue.
I got angry letters from the library and spent a lot of time trying to decide if I should just keep it and pay the forty dollar fee for lost books.
Oh! How I wanted to.
I wanted that book!
But some part of me just couldn't do it.
This was a little secret, a treasure that I had for a while.
And then I had to give it up.

Trust me, the poetic beauty of only having it for a season was not lost on me.

I was Wendy. The book would forget me, I hadn't even left my own notes in the margins.
But I think about it sometimes.

Maybe someday, my kids will go to BYU and check out the old play, "Peter and Wendy," (perhaps because they're feeling nostalgic for their mom.)
And they'll get this book. The one I remember, held, and loved. With it's little black, worn cover and soft pages from being turned by hundreds of people who were seeking out Neverland.

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K.J.D.L said...

I found your blog through Brittany, and it is wonderful. I LOVE this post, and love that there are other people in the world who feel how I do about books!

Allison said...

I'm a new follower and I just wanted to say I love your blog. It has been my reading material during middle of the night feedings for the last several weeks. Oh how I wish I could get my hands on that book. Peter Pan has and always will be my favorite story. From the book to the Disney movie, I have never come across a version I haven't liked.

Lana said...

Ahem, and the one I bought you IN LONDON! Ahem. :)

Bonnie said...

I would have been SOOOOO conflicted about whether to keep that book. You've inspired me to go and check out Peter Pan and read it. I've got surgery coming up - I'll have time...

Any other book suggestions? I don't actually know you, but I know people who know you and I suspect that your taste in books is near perfect.

Elizabeth said...

Barnes and Noble people know NOTHING. Little, local shops do obviously as is apparent in "You've Got Mail".

Anyways, sigh. Peter. I love Peter Pan, as you know--so of course I loved this post!

MARCIE said...

You really were dealing with an idiot at B and N! How cool to have that first edition for a while. Peter Pan was always magical to me as a child, but alas, I grew up, a fate most of us are condemned to. Most.