Saturday, July 23, 2011

Change Over Time - Experiencing Stories at Different Phases of Life

Back in high school, when I took calculus, I remember there was something called "change over time." I think we represented it with the Greek letter delta. I've forgotten an awful lot I learned in calculus, but lately I've been thinking about change over time - as it relates to writing, of course.

I've been re-reading Charles Dickens' OLIVER TWIST at the gym lately on my iPad (there's a sentence I'd never have expected to write). I first read it when I was about 12 or 13 years old. After watching a movie adaptation on Netflix, I found myself wondering how accurate my memories of the story truly were, and how my experience of it might be different at the age of 45 than it was 30 plus years ago. The adult me is infinitely better tuned to Dickens' wry tone and scathing condemnation of his society than the adolescent me. But beyond that, there were entire sections I had completely forgotten (or perhaps blocked out) and even characters I barely remembered or noticed the first time that stand out much more this time through. My impressions of other characters are completely changed. Fagin and the Artful Dodger, for example, seemed much more complex, almost sympathetic, on my first round, while their villainy and self-interested motives appear obvious now.

I remember my mother had a similar reaction to SILAS MARNER. In high school she thought it was boring and stupid. As an adult, she found it deeply moving. So, now I'm on a mission. The next on my list is Jane Austen, who left me utterly cold when I first read her stuff in high school. We'll see what I think of Mr. Darcy and the rest this time through.

The words don't change with time, but we do, and we, the readers, are co-creators with an author. We stage and interpret their work in our mind's eye, and as our minds change, our experience of the story changes.

Change over time affects us as writers, too, a fact that can prove especially challenging when you work on something over the course of many years. But that's a story for another blogpost, one I suspect will be entitled THE MOVING TARGET.


  1. Hey Cindy! this is great! didnt know you were doing this. thanx to Sam..
    interesting thoughts.. and rereading kids books is also cool.. alto there is so much new to read - well, when? not to mention trying to write myself.

    how to subscribe to your blog for email delivery? would sure like to.

  2. Kate, thanks for commenting! Good question about subscribing. I think there's a button on the blog for subscribing. If you have any trouble with it, let me know and I'll see what I can figure out.

    You'll be glad to know I do have some modern titles on my reading list right now. This summer included SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell, NEGOTIATING WITH THE DEAD, by Margaret Atwood, and GREGOR THE OVERLANDER, by Suzanne Collins (of HUNGER GAMES fame). I've also added some Stephen King to me iPad to expand my horror knowledge. Summer is my time to catch up on all those book recommendations I collect and can't get to during the school year.


Popular Posts