Jake Conrad

Jake Conrad
Blog dedicated to my writing and whatever else I want: movies, games, books, electronics, music, ... anything Jake. The interior of my mind is a mixture of grindhouse, steampunk, Lovecraft, and 80's pop. Be very afraid.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Condensed Classics for Children - Reason #124,543 Why I Love My Mom

I was thinking about classic literature today and how I seem to be drawn quite easily to writers between roughly the 1880's and 1940's.  I'm not saying that is all I like to read (I hate seeing people read only one author or genre) or that everything written in that time was good by any means, but lately, since I have really put forth an effort to read a highly regarded classic every 3rd book or so, I have a discovered a real affinity for the writing of this period of time.  It never ceases to surprise me how the themes and characters of many of these books seem so contemporary.  I think that it must be that my imagination of what seems like "a long time ago" must reflect a less complex society or something. I guess I forget that there is "no new thing under the sun." What I'm trying to say in a round-about way is that I have found the old crap to be as good as the new crap in my literary wanderings, sometimes better.

I think that the only reason I feel, and have always felt a desire to read these classics is thanks to my Mom.  My mom played school with me when I was little, teaching me to read at a very young age.  (This age gets younger and younger as she brags about it over the years.  It started at 4 then went to 3.  I think her most recent memory of it had me reading Shakespeare at 13 months :) She took me to the library and bought me countless books over the years.

The way she introduced classic literature to me was by participating in a book club back around the time I was in 1st to 3rd grades.  This book club sent us pocket versions of classic novels abridged and simplified for kids.  I have been looking all over the web tonight for these things, but haven't been able to find them - maybe someone who reads this might know what I'm talking about.  I can see them very vividly in my mind though, as I spent hours reading and re-reading them.  They were about 5" by 5" paperback books with a colorful cover and light-grey pages inside.  There was a black-and-white illustration on every other page with a small descriptive legend taken from the text below each illustration and the facing page was the continuing abridgment of the classic story.  I don't remember how many I had, or which ones exactly, but I remember Oliver Twist, Last of the Mohicans, Moby Dick, one with all the stories from Poe, and many more.  There had to be 20 or 30 books.  I remember knowing at the time that these weren't the real books but simplified versions of the books, and even then some of them were boring beyond belief to me.  The funny thing is I still read them all several times.  I don't know if it was the illustrations that kept me going, or that I was just hard up for entertainment, or maybe it was my burgeoning OCD already making me finish any series I begin, but I spent hours with those things.

They must have been poorly made little books because I don't remember what ultimately happened to them.  Still, they did their job very well.  Ever since, when I have seen the titles of these books it has sparked a flash of memory and I have been drawn to them, sometimes not even knowing why.  Whenever I pick up the actual book and read it, I am always surprised because they are familiar to me, like a dream that I can barely remember, which makes the reading extremely satisfying.  With each of these I re-discover, I feel like I have found a missing piece of a puzzle.

I can't help but think that my Mom was inspired to get these books for me back then, never knowing that small act would give me such fulfilling experiences so much later in my life.  Moms can be influential that way I guess.  I thank God every day for the parents He gave me.


  1. I have no memories of mom reading to me. I had the Babysitters Club books and Sweet Valley High series. I feel less loved.

  2. Lovely! I hope to be such an outstanding mother like yours. So much of your "coolness" can be attributed to your mom, way to go Jackie!