I’m one of those who remembers little of early childhood. I have, however, a sun-bright memory of sitting rapt at my schooldesk in Mrs. Goluba’s second grade class, aged seven, as she read aloud to us, over a period of several weeks, A.A. Milnes’ House at Pooh Corner. That, I distinctly remember, was when I fell in love with books.
And now that I think of it, with fantasy literature as a genre as well.
I loved Pooh so ardently I begged for it for Christmas. Unwrapping it that morning, I remember not only my delight at the prospect of being able to relive those beloved stories whenever I wished, I also remember the smell of the new paper, the weight of it, and feeling the first twinge of that lust for possessing books that fills shelves and empties pockets.
How I wish I still had that book, the first hardcover I ever owned!
Alun Alexander Milne was born this day, January 18, in 1882. Like so many of his fellow twentieth-century fantasists, Tolkien and Lewis to name two, he served in World War I. While the thought that the horrors of modern warfare helped build the foundations of modern fantasy might seem counter-intuitive, it serves to remind us, as Tolkien pointed out on several occasions, that so-called “escapist” literature has had a bad rap: sometimes the world we wish to escape needs escaping.