Bookworm

doulicia's comment

I started this as a comment in response to doulicia's comment to my last post, but it got too big. She said:
I am interested in your liberal attitudes toward reading. I remember reading a lot of things in 5th-8th grade (Go Ask Alice, Stephanie Can't Come Out To Play, Summer to Die) that really made me anxious about the world. A bloody booger makes me think leukemia and I never so much as smoked a cigarette for fear of that slippery slope into base addiction.

Of course, maybe it's a chicken and egg thing. Perhaps I was an anxious kid who sought reinforcement of my perceived scary world in fiction.

Thoughts, psychoanalyst?

Can kids learn to fear the world by reading material that they aren't psychologically/emotionally sophisticated enough to deal with?
Yeah, I read some of those same books and they affected me deeply, too. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. A lot of that stuff is part of life, stuff we all have to wrestle with anyway. I'd rather have my kids get it from fiction than movies or, god forbid, personal experience. What I hope is that my kids will feel free to talk with me about what they're reading. Or let me read along with them. So far, this has happened. Reading along with my son has been one of the greatest pleasures of my parenting life so far.

My parents had the same policy with me when I was growing up. Not only did they not censor my reading ever, but they actually encouraged me to read some pretty weird stuff. My mom was the one who got me hooked on James Bond. My dad, who's a professor of clinical psychology, had me reading books like The Fifty Minute Hour when I was in my teens. I don't think anyone alive is psychologically or emotionally sophisticated enough to deal with that one. (It's a collection of psychoanalytic case histories, extremely Freudian and explicit. A real page-turner -- I'm not kidding -- but quite inappropriate for a young adolescent.) And yet, it felt good to be able to read whatever I wanted. I felt like (at least in this realm) my parents respected and trusted me.

When you say "learn to fear the world" I assume you aren't talking about healthy, adaptive fear; you probably mean over-the-top anxiety. I think some people are more prone to anxiety to begin with, and reading books like A Summer to Die (which, incidentally, was written by Lois Lowry!) can feed their anxiety, but if it wasn't bloody noses, they'd find something else to obsess about. I don't mean that to sound flip, by the way. I've never gotten over that bloody nose scene, either.

12 Comments:

  • Oh yeah, obsessions in youth fuelled by reading...I think I've read A Summer To Die based on the bleeding nose/lukaemia plot...or was it something else...? Whatever it was, it got me too. I read Hiroshima by John Hersey and was traumatised throughout the 80s. It seemed to exascerbate the fear that was already in the climate...and then Chernobyl blew up! I also read lots of autobiographical holocaust survivor stories The Endless Steppe Esther Hautzig, but not being Jewish, they didn't get me in the same way.

    I think I was already terrified enough to avoid hard drugs, so when I did read Go Ask Alice it scared the pants off me. though unlike doulicia, I smoked, and even smoked dope a few times until I realised I really didn't like either...

    Not sure that this comment has made much sense, but an interesting topic to think on...

    posted by Blogger Mummy/Crit on 8:44 AM  

  • Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy made a lasting impression on me. I've never forgotten the last pages of that book! It still leaves me feeling eerily sad.

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 2:43 PM  

  • Thanks for coming by, and for the kind words about the blog. Love that you're from Michigan! You're right--it's all east coast as far as the blog can see.

    I am interested in pi, in a non-math scholar sense. That, and zero. There are two books on my horizon (can't remember either title, though).

    Very cool that you are reading Vanity Fair--I love Thackery's writing. So very tart.

    posted by Blogger SuzanH on 9:02 PM  

  • I vividly remember reading "Follow My Leader" when I was in elementary school. It was about a boy who gets a seeing eye dog after being blinded by a a misguided firecracker. I STILL get nervous around fireworks and kids!

    posted by Blogger Rhodent on 10:15 PM  

  • My parents never censored my reading and I read anything and everything that came my way. Valley of the Dolls was published when I was a teenager and was considered most risque. Seems tame now. I also read Lady Chatterly's Lover which I thought was boring.

    Anytime a group decides to ban a book everyone else decides to read it. I swear the "Harry Potter is the Devil's Work" people are one of the reaons it's constantly at the topof the best seller lists!

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 9:18 AM  

  • Oh wow! I remember Follow My Leader, too! What a flashback.

    Maybe I should lighten up on "Goosebumps" books then? Avery is dying to read them.

    Bookworm, I picked up "Gathering Blue," the sequel to "The Giver," for you at the rummage sale yesterday. I couldn't pass it up after your last post! I'll try to drop it off this week.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 9:02 AM  

  • My gosh, I totally remember Follow My Leader! And to this day I am extremely anxious around fireworks. Every summer we have two or three block parties (VERY friendly neighborhood) and one person always brings fireworks that they set off RIGHT IN THE STREET. That's when I make my kids go IN THE HOUSE. I only like fireworks when I'm on the beach and the fireworks are being set off on the other side of the lake.

    The first book I ever remember reading that freaked me out was The Moss-Covered Mansion, a Nancy Drew. She finds the body of a dead horse in it.

    Doule, why don't you let him read one, and you read it too?

    posted by Blogger Julie on 8:57 PM  

  • Cool new look! My parents didn't censor what I read either except for one book my mother felt was too graphic, so of course, I read it at age 14 (600 pages in one day while she was at work). It was unheard of that she censored a book, so unusual that goody two shoes me defied her. 10 years later I confessed. She said she figured as much and that she was conflicted, which is why she left it out in plain sight! Additionally,since one parent had an "in" w/ the library, I read a very wide and unusual assortment of material and still do.

    I feel that enhanced my education, even when I cried, was appalled, or any other emotion that resulted from reading "shocking" books.

    I read to and along w/ both of my daughters. I agree w/ your philosophy.

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 11:56 AM  

  • I'm so glad to find others on the same wavelength! Some of the parents at school don't want their kids reading The Giver.

    So GEL, what was the book your mom didn't want you to read?

    posted by Blogger Julie on 8:02 PM  

  • The Boston Strangler (She was concerned b/c it is nonfiction,I had been babysitting outside of the house for about a couple of yrs by the time I was 14, and several scenes are extremely graphic.) I cringed reading them, but no nightmares. Afterall, I had already read dozens of books on the topic of abuse prior to that book and vowed to devote a major part of my life to helping the abused, prior to age 14...

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 9:23 AM  

  • Addendum: There were several other books on abuse that Did give me nightmares, but I was already a teen, and such cruelty and deviation IS meant to be felt. To be numb about it is the worse apathy, to me.

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 9:26 AM  

  • I was booted b4- blogger probs (even now Julie's beautiful design is not showing.) Strong words: Although I did "handle" reading the graphic parts of The Boston Strangler, I would NOT recommend it to a 14 yr old, no matter how "mature."

    My parents were correct that it was too vivid, too awful, and compounded by the fact that it was from TRUE occurrences made it chilling. I am against Book censorship, but I DO FEEL Strongly that parents have the obligation (not teachers), to oversee what their children read.

    Although, I had no nightmares, I had plenty of questions. The book chilled me to the bone in many ways. My parents answered my questions openly and fully.

    Julie, if you see this today: Happy Passover to you and yours!

    posted by Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) on 2:59 PM