Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Reading and Memory

I've been experiencing a rather curious form of memory re-awakening during the last week, as I started reading aloud to the older girls The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum. It's a book I remember enjoying, but one that I never read myself (at least, not to my recollection.) I heard my mother read it aloud several times -- both when I was in the target age for the book (perhaps 7-10) and when I was older and she was reading the book to my younger siblings. Now I am reading it to our kids, and the experience is different from that of reading aloud a book one has read oneself. The book is set in occupied Holland, starting in the fall of 1944, and the Winged Watchman of the title is the windmill of which the main character's father is the millwright.

I find that I remember Watchman quite well, though unlike some books which I recall primarily as read-alouds, I don't necessarily hear it in a particular voice. By comparison, many of the James Thurber stories which I remember my father reading I find that I still read with his intonations and character voices -- even though I must have read The Night the Bed Fell dozens of times myself by now.

Then, there are the books which I have mostly forgotten, except for one or two images which are deeply embedded in my memory. The Mouse and His Child falls in this category. I know I heard it read aloud at least once (by my mother) as a child, but the outline of the story is shrouded in the mists of memory. I remember only that it is about the quest of a father and son wind-up mouse for self winding, and that one of the closing images is of the infinite regress to the Last Visible Dog on the label of a can of dog food.
And yet, the Last Visible Dog is something that I remember fairly frequently. I may need to read it to the kids simply in order to revive my own memories.

Speaking of memories, I had completely forgotten (if I had ever known it) that The Mouse and His Child was written by Russell Hoban, who while he was still married to Lillian Hoban co-wrote with her such family favorites as that instruction manual for young diplomatists, A Bargain for Frances.

1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


I never read this book, but I know my mother rented the movie for me once because I remember this father and son well. My heart really went out to them--and I remember that even though I couldn't tell you anything about the story.