Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hen Wen

While I certainly remember reading books as a child (tween/preteen/whatever comes before freshman English class and Tess of the D’Urbervilles), I’m not sure why I chose the books I did. I recall going to the school and public libraries but I have no conscience memory about what motivated me toward my selections. Nowadays, I just grab whatever’s nearby or at the airport’s Hudson News or is about zombies. But what invisible hand was guiding my decisions back then? I’m guessing it was either a kindly old lesbian librarian or the wicked Scholastic Books marketing devilkin.

A quick survey of friends and family has me leaning toward the idea that as books readers we are all embarrassingly lazy and will read whatever is placed closest to the door, propped open on its end with a dynamic shiny cover. Tek War, ahem.

So Lord knows why I was drawn to the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander around age 11. And while I don’t exactly remember what happened in terms of characters (magic pig) and plot* (quest for magic pig), I do recall thinking the series was the greatest literary accomplishment since The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. It also had nearly invincible zombie warriors in it.

I was therefore saddened to read that Alexander died last week at the age of 83. Here was a man whose writings slyly nudged my current literary tastes toward the world of fantasy but no so much that I’m one of those weirdoes that read fantasy novels. Well played, Mr. Alexander. And thanks.

* Wikipedia reveals that the plot was a crazy-assed one. Also, the other series I enjoyed as a yearling was the Dark Is Rising which they are turning into a movie, apparently. It’s also apparent that writers of children’s fantasy are required to have all their characters with magical powers to get on a ship and sail away to an elf world at the end of the final book. It’s called the Elrond Halfelven Dictate.

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