better the second time

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Last Friday was the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (preceding by one day the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins). Considered a classic children’s book and a master work of fantasy, this is also one of my favorite books. So it’s a little surprising that the first time I picked up The Hobbit, circa the 5th or 6th grade, I read that first page and promptly put it back on the shelf of my classroom lending library.

I don’t know what caused me to bounce off the book so quickly. Possibly because Tolkien does take his time getting to the point, doesn’t he? Or maybe it all just seemed a little too silly at the time.  It just didn’t seem like a book for me, as much as I loved fantasy and science fiction even then.

The Hobbit appeared on a summer reading list for my 7th grade English class, and for whatever reason, I decided to give it another try. And I completely loved it. So much so, that I immediately dived into The Lord of the Rings, which was admittedly a slog a lot of the time, particularly in the first half of The Two Towers. I’m really glad I gave the book another chance.

This has happened for me with other books, too. Most notably, I bought a copy of The Silmarillion, but it took me ten years to actually finish it, at which point I inhaled it in about two days. Dune by Frank Herbert put me to sleep when I first tried to read it in the 7th grade, but I was suddenly able to appreciate it. And I now have no trouble getting through The Lord of the Rings whenever I reread it every couple of years.

Sometimes we revisit beloved books and either find that our tastes have changed too much to enjoy them any more, or they bring us back to the time and place in which we first read them. But how often do we revisit books that didn’t work for us the first time around? In my first encounter with The Catcher in the Rye, I was way too young to get it, but years later, it suddenly meant a lot more to me.

With so many books out there to read, these days I’m less inclined to finish a book that I’m not enjoying or come back to one that I couldn’t get into, but there’s something to be said for giving books a second chance. So much of the experience comes from the reader; even your mood affects whether or not you feel like reading a book. I guess it’s a matter of knowing the difference between “not for me” and “not for me right now.”

Do you have any books that you passed on or disliked at first, but fell in love with later on?

reading tonight!!!

Just a reminder that I will be joining Jack O’ Connell at the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading tonight at the KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th Street, NYC. The readings start at 7:00 p.m., books will be for sale, and oh, did I mention that it’s my birthday? This is also likely to be my last (and thus, best!) reading for Fair Coin in NYC. It would be so wonderful to see you there. In fact, it’s my birthday wish.

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water on mars

Like many, I was saddened to hear of Ray Bradbury’s death yesterday. Yes, he was 91 years old, which is a pretty decent run, and inasmuch as I don’t know anything about his personal life, he seemed to have led a full one. He certainly wrote a lot of great books that touched countless readers, influenced a lot of writers, and represented science fiction and fantasy at its very best–and will continue to do so for a long time to come, possibly for as long as print exists in some form and there are people to read it. That’s an incredible gift to leave us, and I’m forever grateful.

The URL of that NY Times article I linked above calls him a “popularizer of science fiction,” which at some point must have been changed to “master of science fiction” for the web metatext, because it doesn’t appear anywhere in the article; whether someone takes offense at this description or not, he did accomplish that. There weren’t many science fiction authors being taught in school when I was a kid, but Fahrenheit 451 was required reading in junior high school.

I never met Bradbury, so I don’t have a lot to add to the chorus of recollections of those who encountered him in person at one time or another. I wish I had, but I know I would have been awkward and starstruck. But I suspect we all still have very personal memories of his books and our relationship to them.

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I vividly recall one day in middle school discovering a waterlogged book in the stairwell, resting on top of a warm radiator. I was late for class and in a hurry, but I stopped anyway, because it was a free book. It was a rainy day, so I imagined that it had been left outside and someone brought it in, and abandoned it there for some reason. I examined the drenched cover and discovered it was a science fiction book: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Score. I didn’t know who it belonged to and I didn’t think any class at my Catholic school would be teaching it, so I claimed it. I wanted to flip through it right away, and tried to, but the pulpy pages were stuck together and I didn’t want to damage them so I had to wait impatiently while it dried on my radiator at home.

When it was finally dry, the pages were rough and warped and the mass market paperback was about twice as thick as before, but it was legible–and more than readable, because I breezed through it from worn cover to cover. I had never encountered anything like it, and honestly, probably didn’t understand or appreciate it half as much as it deserves. It was the first novel of linked stories I had read (without even knowing that’s what it was), and other than short stories and excerpts in English classes over the years, it was probably my first real exposure to science fiction short stories. It has been a long time since I last read it, but I still think about it surprisingly often–mostly disconnected images, which still somehow have a lot of feelings tangled up with them. I remember the book as an experience rather than for its specific stories, but I know I loved those too.

The other day, I was browsing the Harvard Book Store and I encountered Farewell Summer, the sequel to Dandelion Wine, which I somehow didn’t know had been published. I found it comforting though that he was still publishing books and stories and essays, which is why I was dismayed by his death. It isn’t that he didn’t lead a good, long, productive life, but that we can’t look forward to new work from him. There will never be another Ray Bradbury. But it also happens that I haven’t yet read every one of his novels or short stories. (I was actually more familiar with his work from The Ray Bradbury Theater, which I loved since I am such a Twilight Zone fan.) So I will keep on reading and rereading him for a good long time–starting with his recent essay in the New Yorker, which I still haven’t gotten to–and I’ll keep on writing, because damn, I have some catching up to do.

coming to a city near you! (if you’re near Boston, NYC, or Philly)

I tease some of my friends about them not promoting their upcoming events, and here I am waiting until the last minute to post about one of my own. But hopefully it isn’t too late! I will be visiting three of my favorite cities in June, and perhaps if you live near one of these venues, you will come visit me?

The Greater Boston Area

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On Saturday, June 2 (in just two days!) I will be providing the Y-chromosome at a Young Adult Debut Author panel featuring six members of the Apocalypsies. We’ll talk about writing, read some brief excerpts from our work, sign books, and pose for pictures.

WHEN: Saturday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446

WHO: Gina DamicoCroak
Emily M. DanforthThe Miseducation of Cameron Post
A.C. GaughenScarlet
Elisa LudwigPretty Crooked
E.C. Myers (that’s me!) – Fair Coin
Jessica SpotswoodBorn Wicked

Philadelphia, PA

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The following Saturday, June 9, I will again join some Apocalypsies for a group reading and signing a bit closer to home at the Downtown Barnes & Noble at Rittenhouse Square.

WHEN: Saturday, June 9 at 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Barnes & Noble Downtown
Rittenhouse Square
1805 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

WHO: Elisa LudwigPretty Crooked
E.C. Myers (still me!) – Fair Coin
Eve Marie MontA Breath of Eyre
K.M. WaltonCracked

New York City

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I’ll have two events in NYC in June; I’ll try to read different things at each, in case you’re inclined to attend both. The first is on Wednesday, June 13 at my favorite library in Manhattan, the Jefferson Market Branch, as part of the Teen Author Reading Night. Basically, I’ve wanted to read at one of these for years, so I’m really excited about this one.

WHEN: Wednesday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: Jefferson Market Branch of NYPL
425 Avenue of the Americas (corner of 6th Ave and 10th St) — it’s the tall, beautiful clock tower
New York, NY 10011

WHO: Jen Calonita – Belles
Tim Carvell – Planet Ted
Susane Colasanti – Keep Holding On
Gwendolyn Heasley – A Long Way From You
Brian James – Life is But a Dream
Dan KrokosFalse Memory
E.C. Myers (there’s that guy again) – Fair Coin
Kim Purcell – Trafficked

Books will not be sold at this event, so please bring your own! I’ll also have some bookplates I can sign for you if you don’t have a copy of Fair Coin yet or forget your copy at home.


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Another dream of mine will come true the following Wednesday, June 20, when I get to read at the KGB Fantastic Fiction Reading series. So awesome. We’ll have some books available for sale there!

WHEN: Wednesday, June 20 at 7:00 p.m. (Doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

85 E. 4th Street
New York, NY 10003

WHO: Jack O’ Connell – The Resurrectionist, Box Nine, Wireless, The Skin Palace, and Word Made Flesh
E.C. Myers (!!!!) – Fair Coin

So there you go. Four chances to see me read and get your book signed! And remember, if you can’t make it to a reading, you can always request a signed bookplate. Keep an eye on this blog, Twitter, or the Events page for more upcoming appearances!

north, miss tessmacher! north!

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but my next reading from Fair Coin will be this Thursday, May 3 at 7:00 p.m. at Water Street Books, 26 Water Street, in Williamstown, MA. This event is generously co-sponsored by the Religion and English departments at Williams College.

If you live anywhere near Williamstown, I would love to see you there! A discussion and signing will follow the short reading, and there will be plenty of swag for the taking. I expect it to be a fun event, what with all the smart college kids and teachers around.

Apparently Christopher Reeve often performed in theatrical productions in Williamstown and was married there, so that’s kind of cool. Other notable individuals with links to Williamstown include quantum physicist William Wootters (best name ever!), the Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy at Williams College; songwriter Cole Porter; Welsh actor Roger Rees; actor Matthew Perry; and SFF writer Paul Park.