Fire and Hemlock story (was Re: Introduction)

Courtney M Eckhardt cme at MIT.EDU
Sun May 7 02:37:18 EDT 2000

In message <383244413.957460012277.JavaMail.root at web183-iw>, Mary Ann Dimand wr
>> (In fact, if anyone's interested, I can tell a rather spine-
>> tingling story about the first time I actually made it through
>> all of Fire and Hemlock.)
>Please do. I love stowies.

And then Sally Odgers said:
>too young for them.  (In fact, if anyone's interested, I can tell a
>spine-tingling story about the first time I actually made it through all
>of Fire and Hemlock.)
>Yes please. Do tell!

Sorry it's taken me this long to get to it; I've had a pretty busy week.
And there's been so much wonderful mail to read from you all. :)

So... I think I had mentioned before that I had tried to read Fire and
Hemlock several times when I was pretty young and had not been able to get
into it.  Something about the beginning of the book just bored me to tears
at that age.  I knew it was a DWJ and should be wonderful once I got into
it, but even with the promise of unnamed wonders I couldn't read it.

What's more, the beginning seemed so dull and dreary that I could never
remember whether or not I had read it or tried to read it before, so I
wound up bringing it home even more often than otherwise because of that.

Then, when I was in my early teens, they shut down half of the main branch
of the town's public library in order to restore some of it and build an
addtion that was to restructure the space in a massively inconvenient and
ugly manner and incidentally (to my outraged sensibilities) double the
size of the library. The part of the library that was being closed down
housed the children's and young adults' sections, and the books from them
were being moved to the tiny secondary brach of the library that was over
two miles further away near the opposite edge of the town from where my
family lived.  My sisters and I were devastated. For one thing, the
library was a huge beautiful old stone building with great vaulted
ceilings on the first floor and a towerlike area that was reached by
climbing up a set of creaky wooden spiral stairs covered in thick red
carpet (the steps were six or eight feet from the outside to the ceter of
the spiral!).  The second reason was that trips to the library were rare
and precious and only happened because we lived five minutes from the
library by car; when the move was announced my mother loudly declared that
there would be no more trips to the library until the books were moved
back, because she had things to do.  This was doubly devastating, as the
project was scheduled to take about three years and since the entire thing
was being designed and run by comittee (including the architecture!), it
could reliably be counted on to take much longer (I think it wound up
taking nearly five).

However, eventually we were able to talk my mother into occasional trips
to the far library.  It was on one of these infrequent trips that, while
searching desperately for a book I hadn't read that I thought I could
read, or one I thought I could read again, I saw Fire and Hemlock.  It was
another one of those times where I didn't remember that I'd tried reading
it before, helped by the displacement of the book and of my concept of
"library"*. I brought it home with a stack of other books, and glumly set
about try to reread them in the hopes they would soothe the reading itch,
even though they weren't what I wanted.

And somewhere in the beginning bit of Fire and Hemlock, where Polly is
realizing she'd read the book she's reading before, and she looks up at
the picture on her wall and begins to remember something... I began to
remember that I'd tried to read the book *I* was reading before.  I
definately, literally, got chills up and down my spine, because just at
the point where Polly begins remembering things *I* began remembering
things!  In fact, I get chills and shudders just thinking of it now.  It
was quite definately one of the top ten most eerie experiences of my life,
and I remember that "coming out of the haze" feeling and the
spine-tingling with amazing clarity.  It made that section of the book
more real for me than possibly any other book I have ever read.  For just
a minute there, I *was* Polly, with things poking up out of her mind that
she hadn't realized were there.

That probably seems rather melodramatic, but... I still get chills!


* That beautiful stone building forever engraved a concept of "library"
into my mind that the little dinky secondary library in it's tacky square
brick building with its tacky orange-and-earth tones seventies color
scheme and tacky semibroken orange library-institutional furniture just
did *not* live up to.  Every time I walked in the door of that place I got
a severe culture shock.  It felt so wrong to me that it was actually
*distressing*, and instead of spending as much time there as I could, like
I had with the other building, I was eager to select the books that I was
going to rescue from the library that trip and make off with them to my
nice safe (albeit pink) room.
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