Monday, February 27, 2012

David Copperfield

This is the first real book I ever read.  I remember holding it in my hands, feeling its weight, fanning through the pages, thinking it would be a feat unmatched in modern times if I could finish it.  I must have read the opening paragraphs a hundred times, overwhelmed by what I understood, in awe of what I didn't.  There was magic in those pages, magic that wasn't in the Stephen King or the Dean Koontz books I'd read, and over the months it took me to get through it I developed a love for the written word that has since driven me to start penning my own novels.

I was fourteen at the time, or close enough, and living cozily in my basement bedroom.  It had once been two rooms, but my dad decided one summer that it would be fun to knock down some walls and the two basement beds became one - and upstairs the kitchen and the dining room and the living room became a lividitchen.  I had two closets, a king-sized water bed, Grandma's old couch (which we sawed in half, shoved in through the window, and stapled back together), a TV, a CD player, and an empty bookshelf.  It was cool in the summer, and I read every page of David Copperfield tucked into the corner of Grandma's couch with the windows open and the ceiling fan on high.

I haven't read it since, and it's strange how little of the actual story I remember.  A few pieces stand vividly, but the rest is washed away.  I can still see Steerforth, his shock of red hair wild in the cold wind, grappling with the mast of a foundering ship so near the port, and the booming swell of the storm and the silent swell of the onlooking throng.  Or Lil' Emily's father, scaling all the mountains of Europe in the desperate search for his daughter - I always picture him with a beard and a cane, and he's always toiling upward, and Lil' Emily is the sun setting away from him.  Or that crazy dwarf woman, who in my memory has a many-colored face and trinkets hanging from her clothes.  Or David standing alone in a London thoroughfare, watching helplessly afoot as little thieves make off with his luggage.  Other than those images, and perhaps a few others, I have almost no idea what was going on in the novel.

But that doesn't stop me from loving it, or from telling people it's one of my favorites.  I could care less about the themes, the structure, the character delopement, the history of it.  Because this book is really about a fourteen-year-old kid sitting on his grandma's couch in a bedroom missing a wall, reading by sunlight and getting lost for the first time in the world between the lines.