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Friday, June 24, 2011

Time Travel

My daughter and I were at the bookstore last week, searching for a purchase to use up her Christmas gift certificate, when a contemporary Young Adult cover displaying the tanned legs of a young couple swinging on a dock caught my eye.  I’m all about docks and water, so I pulled the book off the shelf, read the title: Seventeenth Summer, by Maureen Daly, and was transported back to the yellow checked bedspread under the quarter-canopy in my childhood bedroom where I used to spend hours reading. For a moment, I dreaded opening the novel; sure someone had attempted to update one of my favorite books from my youth.  But when I did, the copyright read 1946. The only thing new was the cover.

I’m not sure I had any idea that the novel was already thirty years old when I first read it sometime in the 1970’s.  All I knew was it written so well that I was compelled to read and re-read the simple plot line about a summer romance that was so much more.  With the memory of those delicious flopped-on-my-bed reads hovering in the forefront last week, I splurged and bought the book.  As soon as we arrived home I plunked myself down on the couch and began reading the old story, soon recognizing that good writing is good writing, whether it’s published in 1946, or 1972 or 2011

Good writing is about making readers live through and empathize with your characters, and as I turned page after page, I could not only see what seventeen-year-old Angie saw, I could also feel it.  I was transported back to that rare stratosphere of my own first love, when everything was new and brilliant, scary and amazing; when life was a volley back and forth between acute agony and indescribable joy and no matter what anyone told me, I believed, with complete certainty, that no one but me had experienced anything quite as amazing…ever.

It doesn’t matter that in Seventeenth Summer, the 1946 vernacular calls young men “fellows” or that Angie wears petticoats with her dresses and thrills at the simple act of wearing Jack’s basketball sweater.  It makes no difference that the storyline occurs in an era when anything more than a kiss was considered “fast.”  The story itself is timeless, universal and conveyed in words that deliver readers of any generation to that place we all remember, with language like this:
                “In the brightness of the morning last night didn’t seem quite real—as if it had been a movie which I had sat and watched but of which I had not really been a part.  I could hardly have been me who felt almost beautiful just because wind was fingering through my hair and the moon was thin like a piece of sheer yellow silk.  I knew in a little while I would be getting up and putting on blue denim slacks and eating cereal at the table beside the kitchen window and dusting window sills and talking to my mother about garden flowers and what to have for dinner just as I had for so many summers.  There would be no more of the exquisite uncertainty of last night, no queer, tingling awe at the newness of the feeling and no strange, filling satisfaction out of just being alive.”
Remember feeling that way? 

Exactly.

Happy weekend all.  What book transports you back in time?

13 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

I love this! Yes, I do remember feeling that way. Like I was brand-new and why didn't anyonw shriek at the sight of the new me. I often re-read those books that thrilled me back then and I do, for the most part, find that same happy reading groove. Just like old friends...we start talking like no time has passed.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, that writing is truly timeless. Enjoy the rest of your book (and weekend!)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's a simple, innocent way of living that we've forgotten...

Jill Kemerer said...

What a gorgeous passage--thanks for sharing it with us!

Robin said...

Good writing is good writing. I think that is why we can relate to fictional characters written by people hundreds of years ago. If the story is good, we are sucked in. It doesn't matter that the customs are different. It is the emotion that grips us and keeps us pulled in to the story.

Robyn Campbell said...

Fantastic! And I do. Remember feeling that way. I often read books like this that make me feel like they once did. It's like I never left them. :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

How wonderful . . . *big ole sigh*

Oh, I can't think of what book takes me back - there are so many - but see Black Beauty and Black Stallion and White Fang and Call of the Wild all do that for me *smiling*

Those books usually end up mentioned in my novels, somewhere... :)

Helen Ginger said...

The world has changed so much since I was a teen. But it does that every generation. What doesn't change is the emotions. Those stay. So no matter what the age of the reader s/he can identify with the characters if the writer has been honest and open in the writing, I believe.

Lynda R Young said...

those timeless stories are special. It's what I love most about reading -- being transported back or to another place entirely.

glnroz said...

"Once upon a time, there was,,,," - to be continued,, :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

I do remember feeling this way...."tingling awe at the newness of the feeling... satisfaction of just being alive". I do and I want to feel that way again. Funny how the word queer has been taken out of our vocabulary. And it was such a perfect word. I just finished The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and McCullers uses it all the time to described the passing oddity.

GigglesandGuns said...

I remember it well.

jbchicoine said...

I know there were several books that affected me that way--I only wish I could remember the titles and/or the authors. I guess at that age, I was more interested in how a book sparked my own imagination and the stories that went on in my own head, rather than remembering specific authors...