illustration from Apple Cake 2012, Julie Paschkis
Today is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
2014 is a Year of the Horse in Chinese astrology.
When I was little I shared a room with my older sister. She told me that after I was asleep a large white horse would fly into our room and take her away, and that if I was awake when it appeared I could go with them.
Tatiana Mavrina 1969
But I was never able to keep myself awake, and I never got to go.
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, Alice and Martin Provensen 1974
I believed in that horse. I can still feel how I ached to go on those adventures and to see other worlds. I know what I missed.
Now I read in order to get that feeling of being transported. In some books an alchemy takes place. Suddenly you are not just reading words; you are in another place, another world, another person’s mind.
Hiroshige, Big French Circus, 1871
When I pick up a book I always hope that it will have the power to take me somewhere else, and I wait for the moment of lift off – when the world of the book becomes more real than the world around me. Sometimes it happens.
Julie Paschkis, Spring Horse
Even after years of reading and some writing I don’t truly understand how it works. Yes, it has to do with language and character, with details that ring true, with plot development and tension. But is also has to do with a flying horse showing up and with being awake enough to take the ride.
Bestiary by Apollinaire , woodcut by Raoul Dufy 1910
Recently I was lifted away by the collection of O Henry Prize Stories for 2013, especially the stories by Kelly Link and Joan Silber.
In the comments section I welcome your suggestions for books that transported you.
Happy Reading in the Year of the Horse!
The Creation of the World from D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods and Giants 1967