A Fantastic Flying Books experience

There is an enchanting 2011 animated film called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, in which books transport the main character to another world. It is free on YouTube right now, because the directors are releasing another movie that they are using this one to promote.

If you love books and your books developed the ability to fly, it would be surprising, but you wouldn’t kick them out of the house. You’d say, yeah, I thought you’d do that someday.

I had a Fantastic Flying Books experience this past weekend. Although no actual flight was involved, a book that had sat unread on a shelf for 20+ years suddenly came to life.

Sometime in the mid or early 1990s I bought a book called The Wiccan Path: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I don’t remember why I bought it. Possibly I thought the “solitary practitioner” part of the title might relate to a writer’s work. It wasn’t because I wanted to learn how to be a witch. Still don’t.

The Wiccan Path survived three moves and probably a dozen book sales and donations. In other words, I looked at that book over and wiccan pathover, and chose to keep it.

In all that time, I never had any interest in actually reading it. Until last weekend.

Now that Warning: Something Else Is Happening is only a week or so away from being published, a new novella is taking shape in my mind. It features a heroine who leads others in a good direction and is therefore a target for assassins, liars, and torturers.

I was wondering what forces formed her. Instantly I imagined that she was raised by a pair of white witches in a tight, closed community. She rebels against all this and leaves that world behind, but as her heroic journey progresses, she finds that doors opened during that time serve her well. Not that she is a witch—no. It is not that simple.

Gee, I didn’t know anything about white witches. Nothing whatsoever. Where could I find out?

The Wiccan Path, written by Rae Beth, gave me the exact information I was after. It is a fascinating, likable book. Parts of it read like a role-playing game:

You will leave the clearing and follow a winding, downhill path, until you see a cave. The entrance is not much more than a crack between two rocks. But you slip inside, following your familiar. A candle will be waiting for you, standing upon a rock. Pick up the candle and look all around. The cave is clean. Perhaps it is a crystal cave. The floor is sand. At the back is another opening. You go through and a passage winds away downhill, deep into earth. . . .

And so on.

I own a few other books like The Wiccan Path—unread but still there, waiting to take flight. The people who made Fantastic Flying Books would understand.

What books have a permanent place on your bookshelves?

Lines here and there

I will never be guilty of unconscious plagiarism, not because of my ethics but because of my memory. Never in this world could I steal from another writer without knowing what I am doing.

From the beginning, I have had this weird total recall for turns of phrase.


What do I remember?

Examples from books:

Which fairly famous writer was fond of the adverb “obscurely” in dialogue? As in: “Not yet,” Ben said obscurely.

Answer: Shirley Jackson. She liked that construction  and I don’t know of any other writer who does. I kind of like it myself.

Another example: Who wrote “It seemed to want to happen”?

Answer: Russell Hoban in Turtle Diary. This is a line I would love to steal, but I won’t.

Examples from movies:

“Is that clear?
“No, but it’s consistent.”
—What’s Up Doc

“Does salt work against the supernatural?”
“The Montusi bush men thought so. But they’re extinct.”
—The Haunting

“And you really are a gardener, aren’t you?”
—Being There

Even more to the point, why do I remember?

I am a writer, so recalling things I have read is not so unusual. The lines usually reflect some quality of the writing that I admire.

On the other hand, the lines I remember from movies tend to be from outer space. Such as the following:

“You tell municipal lighting we’re going to candlepower in fifteen minutes.”

That line is from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not long ago I saw the movie and was slightly pleased to hear that line again, because I remembered it right down to the inflections in the actor’s voice.

I’m really sure I’ll never want to steal that one though.

Why did it stick? “Candlepower” is a good strong word, but that doesn’t explain it.

Please share some lines that you can’t forget. They couldn’t be nuttier than mine.

“You know you’ve got the brain of a four-year old child, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.”
Groucho to Chico, Horsefeathers