I love a lot of the books I read for my classes. I really do. The Sound and the Fury and The Sun Also Rises and Dracula and The Brothers Karamazov…I mean, I’m lucky that I can at least sort of understand such complicated and important literature, you know? I’m confused a lot, but I always end up taking at least something from each book. Learning history, understanding society. I like feeling intelligent when I read; I like that it’s sometimes a challenge.
But sometimes, I miss the simplicity of reading. I miss the honesty. I miss being able to relate to the characters, to look for pieces of myself in them. Those books that I read through my childhood, the ones with no “literary merit” whatsoever, those are the books closest to my heart. Sometimes, before I go to bed, even if it’s late, I take one of them off the shelf, open the crinkled, worn out spine, and start to read.
Sara Nickerson’s How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found is one of my favorite books on the planet, and it’s about a twelve-year-old. The book doesn’t criticize society or have some important philosophical message behind it; there isn’t any symbolism or really any rhetorical devices at all. It’s just a twelve-year-old girl, on a quest to discover the truth about the death of her father and her complicated family history. She doesn’t fall in love, although she does realize the enormity of possibility. The writing is simple but clever, and the story is sad but hopeful. I remember being twelve, all that horrible confusion, and reading this book is kind of a moment of clarity, a tribute to the past.
This is the kind of thing I feel like the big-time classics I’m reading now don’t offer me. I’m not transplanted there anymore, I don’t begin to feel as the characters do. Opening a book is like trying to understand a foreign language instead of meeting a new friend. It’s different now, I’m older, I should be able to handle more. But I still hold onto those midnight readings of children’s books, waiting for the day I’ll find the same truths in something else.