Sunday, July 13, 2008

Old Friends Rediscovered

The Intersection of Cats and Books

The intersection of cats and books. Top photo (early 1970s): Daisy I rests on encyclopedias in the Brooklyn, NY, house where I grew up. Bottom photo (early 1990s): Daisy II poses by part of my library in my Cambridge, MA, apartment.

Written in response to the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "My oldest friend."

My thanks go to Bill Chance, over at Flickr's new Readers & Writers group, for steering me toward a couple of stories I'd read as a child in a book that had vanished from my life long, long ago.

More than 40 years ago, in fact. These stories may not have been my oldest literary friends, but they come close.

I also have Noel Hynd to thank, for establishing the Readers & Writers group. And Krista Vead, who began the discussion thread "Reminiscing," in which she asked members to name their favorite books from childhood.

My old literary friends included mythology books by Evslin, Evslin, & Hoopes, most notably The Greek Gods (Scholastic Books, 1966). My favorite biographies included those of Thomas Alva Edison and Althea Gibson: "One detail from Edison's biography that stuck to me like glue was a childhood incident in which he tried to be like one of his family's chickens, sitting on eggs to incubate them. That mishap caused him to be labeled a slow child."

My post also included the first science fiction books I'd ever read: "when I was 9 (my grade school library had a shelf devoted to SF -- a bottom shelf, in the back). My first two books from that shelf (I forget in which order) were [Robert A.] Heinlein's Starship Troopers and [Murray] Leinster's Time Tunnel."

Then I wrote this:

"And I had and lost (and have pined for) a collection of Japanese fairy tales, from which I remember two small details from separate stories. One was a dragon who cried tears of blood that turned into rubies. The other was a little girl who was told by a magical being to value small places, and who subsequently hid in a cupboard when burglars invaded her family's house. Doing so saved her life. The volume was gorgeously illustrated. I haven't been able to find anything like those stories since."

I had misremembered some details on that second story, but about three hours later Bill pointed me to "The Gratitude of the Samebito," as told by Lafcadio Hearn.

I found both the stories I was looking for (and I realized my misremembering) over at the Mukashibanashi ("tales of long ago") Library.

It was such a treat to finally read "The Gratitude of the Samebito" again, after all these years! So, too, "The Boy Who Drew Cats." The protagonist was a boy rather than a girl (though I'm willing to bet the illustration made me think more of a girl -- plus my family was taking in stray cats at the time, when I was a girl). The "magical being" was a priest, who told the boy, "Avoid large places at night; keep to small!" -- and the boy subsequently hid in a cabinet (cabinet, cupboard -- "c" words, what the heck :-) ). And he slept in a temple rather than a family house -- though having lived at his prior temple, one might call that family. And it was a goblin rat, not burglars.

Other than that, I remembered it fine! ;-p

Oh, yeah -- and there was the part about the cats.

I'm looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and to making new ones, both literary and human. This week I am off to Boston for Readercon 19. From the website: "Readercon is, depending on your point of view, either an annual literary conference (except it's infinitely more fun than that) or an annual science fiction convention (except we've stripped away virtually everything except talking about and buying books). In the course of its twenty years, it has become the standard bearer and role model for conventions that focus on the literature."

I was a professional guest at the first Readercon, and I haven't been back to one since the 1980s. This will also be my first trip back to my old stomping grounds in the almost 5-1/2 years since I moved from the Dorchester section of Boston to central Florida. The convention takes place in the Boston suburb of Burlington, MA.

I will read poetry with the Science Fiction Poetry Association at its "Poetry Slan," will read prose with Broad Universe at its Rapid Fire Reading, and will put in some time at the Broad Universe book table. Copies of Covenant and Riffing on Strings are coming with me. I also plan to make it to Mike Allen's speculative poetry workshop.

And I still have to go through the list of Readercon's program items (its delicious .pdf guide is here) and make the very hard decisions about what to attend, because I want to attend everything.

Covenant, the first volume in the Deviations Series, is available from Aisling Press, and from AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Territory, Borders,,,, DEAstore,,,,, Powell's Books, and Target. The Deviations page has additional details.

[end of entry]


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