(Crystal A. Proxmire, 4/2/2011)
The Book of Lost Things was originally rejected by a publisher because they disliked the description of Little Red Riding Hood being intimate with The Big Bad Wolf.
Author John Connolly read the controversial passage to a room full of fans at the Ferndale Public Library’s Author Talk held March 29, 2011. The talk was part of a month-long celebration of reading that is becoming a Ferndale Library Tradition. This year’s Ferndale Reads centered around The Book of Lost Things, with events like book discussions, a movie series, shows at Go Comedy and more to encourage people city-wide to collectively share a story.
Connolly’s book, one of over a dozen he has written, is a winding fairy tale of sorts, focusing on a lad named David who has lost his mother and struggles to feel connected to the world. The Red Riding Hood tryst is just one of the odd twists put on stories that we all know.
“Fairy tales weren’t meant to be these cleaned up Victorian stories,” Connolly said. He said that in the original Snow White it’s the girl’s own biological mother – not stepmother – who wants not only to poison her, but to eat her internal organs for the sake of gaining youth. Connolly sees this as an expression of the lament that many parents feel. “You will look at these handsome young people and realize that your time has past,” he said. That’s what Snow White’s mother had against her.
He lamented the way Victorian writers softened up traditional fairy tales, making them less violent and adding moral lessons to them. “The risk factor of gingerbread houses is actually pretty low, but really what its saying is that your parent’s aren’t always going to be there. …Fairy tales are not good or bad. They teach children to be clever.”
Another interesting thing about fairy tales, according to Connolly, is that when The Brothers Grimm began compiling them they found old Chineese fairy tales that were very similar even though there was no communication between them and the Western cultures. “We all face the same issues, and they are all variations of the same myth,” he said. “We all go through the same kinds of things in life, bereavement, love, loosing our parents, job loss, crimes, disaster. But at the same time no one is ever going to fall in love the way you will fall in love.
‘We all have moments when we read something that expresses something in a way that we never thought someone else would understand. And when that happens it’s like the author reaches out from the page and touches you.”
It’s that kind of connection that helped Connolly survive the hardships of his life. Even as a boy growing up in a crowded home where he had to share a tiny attic with a brother, he found comfort in stories put down on paper. “There are a lot of things that will let you down. But books won’t let you down. Some may be disappointing, but you won’t say ‘that book was terrible, I’m never reading another book again!’ There are always more books.”
The Book of Lost Things was a new kind of book for Connolly, who had been well-liked for his crime fiction. His first novel, Every Dead Thing, introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. That book was followed by a series of more detective stories: Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind, The White Road, The Black Angel, The Unquiet, The Reapers, The Lovers, and The Whisperers. When he switched to writing fiction rooted in childhood fantasy, Connolly said that he lost some readership.
“Readers of genre fiction tend to develop an affection not for writers, but for characters,” he said. “As a writer you can make a pretty good living writing the same book over and over again. You’ll stagnate, but your readers want the same thing over and over, and if you change it they’ll get annoyed.” He said that he wrote The Book of Lost Things because he didn’t want to be limited in his writing.
He also talked about how writing can be seen both as a craft and as art, distinguishing the practice of masterfully using words and being productive in your work, from the passion and higher aspirations of expressing oneself. Good writers, he said, strive for both.
Connolly believes that books will always play an important role in society, even with digital alternatives. “Those of us who love books will always want to be surrounded by them,” he said.
The author happened to be in The US on a trip during the time that Ferndale Reads took place, and he made Ferndale his last stop before flying home to Ireland. “I am touched that so many people have welcomed me here, and that they liked my book so much. This is all really special to me.” Connolly took the time to personally meet and speak with every visitor that waited to have a book signed. He then had an intimate afterglow fundraiser at The WAB to help Friends of the Ferndale Library raise money for next year’s March Reads program. The program provides a month’s worth of activities along with free copies of the book distributed throughout Ferndale.
The Friends of the Ferndale Library raises money for fun events and “extras,” which give people opportunities to connect with their community Library in ways they may not expect. There are concerts, clubs, guest speakers and initiatives like Ferndale Reads.
“This is the kind of thing we like to see,” said Friends member Bridget Deegan-Krause. “Look how many people are here to listen to this best selling author speak! The way everyone comes together to talk and to learn, and to use the Library like this, it’s amazing. It’s what this community is all about.” Over 100 people attended the Author Talk.
Read more Library stories at – http://oaklandcounty115.com/category/library-news/
Learn more about the Library at – http://www.ferndale.lib.mi.us/.
Get involved with Library events by becoming a member of The Friends of the Ferndale Public Library at – http://www.ferndalefriends.org/