Monday, December 3, 2007

Can books change you?

Yesterday I received an amazing email from a reader. She had obviously been really moved by a number of my WW2 books, and had read quite a lot of material on my web site and so was familiar with my other writing as well. It made me think about my favourite books and what makes them my favourites and that made me wonder if literature can change a person. I think that in a way it can. When I was young I read Frank L. Baum voraciously. He was my favourite author. And I think he did change me. Not what I did- I still went to school and did the things children do, but he changed my inner life. I understood that there was this thing called the imagination and that it could be so stunningly wonderful, in fact, magical, and yet, you couldn’t see it or touch it or eat it or wear it, but it changed everything that happened on your inside. Later as I read books as an adult, I rarely had that same response, perhaps because it’s a once in a lifetime feeling. Books can make me think, or feel , or empathize with a character and see a different point of view, or just entertain, but I think that sense of pure wonder I had as a young reader will never return.

I suppose the natural next question is, do I try to write things that are life changing? I’d like to be that person. I’m not sure I often am. When I think about a new book I think that I want it to be something fresh, something new, something that no one has done so that maybe, just maybe, a reader will have that sense of wonder and delight and feel that something inside has changed. Maybe I’m constantly trying to recapture for others that feeling Baum gave me as a reader. And every once in awhile someone writes and tells me I have. It doesn’t get better than that.

All best,