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Page 80

Later I had the kind of realizations
one is supposed to have on first reading
Chapman's Homer (which I haven't read) --
hours of living with Tolstoy's characters,
who became my closest friends; the day
when the narrow-alleyed, cluttered Dublin
of Joyce's ULYSSES suddenly leapt off the page
to surround me with people I could no longer
dismiss as quaint; the day Shakespeare's
ornate Elizabethan poetry, as homogeneous
as tall meadow grass full of wind,
turned into many voices, each distinct and alive
and speaking to me; the day I reread Kafka's
TRIAL and, suddenly, got the joke; the day
I realized that D. H. Lawrence was making
fine distinctions, not smearing everything
into one passionate jelly --

Oh, no doubt these were deeper, richer realizations,
but none held that warm sense of adventure,
of entering a world where I could be whatever
I dreamed, that my first page of the Hardy Boys
gave me. After all, I cycled through the ones I owned
for years. I read THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL
eleven times. I've only read WAR AND PEACE
three times.

I can no longer live in Franklin W. Dixon's
world. I'm too big for it. (When last I owned
the books, their seams were torn from the strain.)
But I'm not too big for what I felt on first
looking it over with a wild surmise.

Note: But three times through War and Peace and 2.5 times through Anna Karenina left me with friends who have stayed with me, while Frank and Joe Hardy (if not the joy of first meeting them) are cardboard figures in the attic now.

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