Tuesday, January 30, 2007

a prize in every book

I've been reading Annie Dillard's An American Childhood. Sir Oliver thinks all books are toys, so it's been slow reading only because I can only read when he is asleep and it's hard to justify spending that precious time reading when there's so much on my "to do" list.
The book itself is brilliant.
She seems to have perfectly captured the illogical, abstract, non-linear way that a child's mind works. Then as the book progresses and her memories chronologically proceed the writing style gets increasingly concrete. Seeing as how I am currently "studying" childhood it is nice to have a reminder that a small child's capacity to think like an adult is understandably lacking. The development of the brain proceeds from back to front and the "logical" portion of the brain (right above the eyes) is the last to mature, around age 22-24. For an adult to expect a child to function on an adult level in an adult world is ridiculous. And it's marvelous to see the audacity of adulthood through the eyes of a child - as written by an adult who vividly remembers being a child.
Plus she's got some fantastic one-liners that have stopped me dead in my tracks. Then I have to mull them over in my brain like a chocolate truffle on my tongue. Today's favorite was, "I breathed the air of history all unaware, and walked oblivious through its littered layers."
Ah, the rewards of reading.
It's also reminded me of Yves Robert's films about Marcel Pagnol, My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle. (Which are both marvelous) Lots of insight into how adults look from a child's point of view. We've all been there and been children, so why are we so quick to forget what it is like and expect our children to function and comprehend things that we ourselves took years to grasp?
I keep catching myself thinking Sir Oliver is teasing me with his sleep patterns, or that there's a little (very little) rebellion against me in the twinkle in his eye. Then I catch myself and remind myself that he doesn't even have a sense of self and otherness yet. He doesn't yet know that he is an autonomous being and that I am a separate autonomous being. Silly Me. I still think he loves me though, even if he doesn't quite know what I am.

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