So, maybe I'm not completely doomed. I've finished the first book on my list already and I've started in on the second one, so I think, maybe, I can do this. Get all twenty books on my list done by mid-March.
Charlie said I can choose the order that I read them in, and as far as I can tell the books are listed randomly, except that ones with the same author are next to each other. So I chose to read A Wizard of Earthsea first, because I've heard of it before and it's basically a kid's book so I thought it would be easy--I mean, it's one of those "young adult" novels. It's pretty short.
I'd heard of the book before, as I said--a few people had said it was like an earlier version of Harry Potter, because part of the book takes place as a school for wizards, but really the mood of the book, and the way the author handles magic, is quite different. For one thing, this isn't a book about children. I'm not even sure it's really a book for children, either--it seems a lot subtler and deeper than that, though maybe I only think so because I'm reading it for school. But reading it was a bit strange, because while it isn't much like Harry Potter, it is quite a lot like this place. I don't think that's a coincidence. It was published in 1968, so the early masters could have read it before they even started the school. We got the idea of doing the Long Dance on the summer solstice from this book, I know that. I also wonder if we call our faculty members "masters," which is a weird term for a professor, because that's what the teachers at the school in the book are called?
I also wonder how much this book has to do with Charlie specifically? How much has this thing inspired him, or at least encouraged or confirmed in him something he already had? The protagonist's teacher (who is not actually part of the school) lives simply, spends a lot of time hiking and camping, can make things with his hands, like bows and walking staffs, and doesn't always tell his student what he's doing or why. At one point, after they've been walking together in the woods for a couple of days without saying hardly anything to each other, the protagonist complains he hasn't learned anything yet, so Ogion, the teacher, says "That's because you haven't learned what I'm trying to teach." Charlie underlined that part.
He's underlined a lot of things. Underlines, notes in the margins, exclamation points, question marks, in all different colored pencils and pens...it really surprised me. We used a lot of library books when I was a kid, so I was taught, it was really emphasized, NEVER to draw or write or mark in a book. I've kept that up all my life. It's almost like a desecration or something, to mark up a book. But Charlie marks his books (I've started the sequel, which is also on the list, and it's marked up, too). I imagine he meant for me to read the markings, or at least doesn't mind if I do, or he wouldn't let me use his books--he's actually insisting that I use his books. But it's strange to think he's really ok with it, since on some level the markings are so personal. They're what he was thinking when he read....One note even mentions AA--the climax of the book revolves around the protagonist saying his own name (I won't ruin it by explaining more) and in the margin there Charlie wrote "AA introduction?" And nearby, in a different color ink, "4th step, maybe? Or First?" I stared at that note for a long time.
It's been nice reading weather--calm and clear and wintery, but in a warm sort of way, if that makes sense. I mean, like how some winter days feel warm, even though the thermometer says otherwise. It hasn't been that cold yet, though we had our first snow the other night--big, pretty flakes fell for about half an hour and I stood on my balcony and watched. I don't have a porch light, of course, but I have a flashlight, so I watched the flakes fly out of the darkness and through the beam like moths. But nothing stuck. Anyway, this reading thing isn't going to be too bad. I'll keep a book with me all the time, in case I have a spare moment, and when I can I'll come out here to the porch at sit, wrapped up in my cloak, reading in the sunshine.