The Best Book in My World
My favorite book as a child was, "The Monster at the End of This Book," by Grover of Sesame Street. I can't even guess at how many times I read it, obviously knowing the ending every time except the first. But I laughed and laughed with each reading. Maybe eventually I only smiled instead of laughing, but it still amused me. As an adult, I kept a number of my childhood books that were in good condition until I began to grow a brood of nieces and nephews, and I decided to gradually give away the books to them as gifts. The Monster at the End of This Book was the last hold-out in my attic. I kept waiting for the right kid, the right age, the right time to bequeath this treasure of mine. Finally it occurred to me the other day as another one of their birthdays arrived on Saturday, that if I didn't give it away now, time would pass before I knew it and all the kids would be too old to get that first burst of wild enjoyment from it that I did. So I got it out to wrap it up. The price printed on the cover was 49 cents. That alone made me smile and also cringe at how old that made me feel. Naturally, I couldn't help reading it. There I was, almost as old as the original cover price, laughing at this silly book. It was more like the first read than any other one because after all these decades, I remembered the gist of it and the punch line, but not the individual pages. I've been an avid reader my whole life. In first grade, I got an award for reading the most books over the course of a week. My house is lined with bookshelves packed to capacity. I have been moved to uncontrollable weeping, to intense anger, to soul-flying joy, to roll-on-the-floor laughter; my life has been genuinely and even profoundly changed by some books. I don't own a Kindle, I don't read eBooks, I like the feel of turning pages. "The Monster at the End of This Book," is all about turning pages. Poor Grover tries to prevent the reader from physically turning them by building walls and ropes and all kinds of things in the book's illustrations to prevent you from being able to flip the page. Upon this mid-life reading, I felt a rare sense of absolute delight -- so pure and so simple that I think it must have been dug up from deep in my emotional memory bank, delivered to my synapses straight out of childhood. I think I have to say, on account of that feeling it gave me, that after all these years and thousands upon thousands and thousands of word-filled pages I have flipped over, this children's book still is my all-time favorite. I wonder if even, given its topic, it somehow has influenced my stubborn loyalty to the printed word, as I once got such maniacal joy from torturing poor, exasperated Grover by incessantly turning over the pages of a book.
I write literary nonfiction and a narrative travel blog. In an unrelated note: a spider just ran across my keyboard. Which is funny because it's like it's trying to prevent me from typing another word ... I fear its re-emergence.