Perhaps the greatest, most powerful story we hear, time and time again, is change.
Birth, live, death; beginnings, suffering and growth, endings. It’s a cycle that we all know, something that somehow feels etched in our bones, defines our living compass.
“Hamsters exist to teach children about death,” my wife once told me – I never had a hamster when I was growing up, but she was right. Experiencing life and death is something that we all eventually have to deal with.
Those who resist change, who try to keep things as they are, eventually seem unnatural – and usually fail; trying to hold the ever-draining sands of time static within their clutching fingers.
I used to think that we valued books because they were static; little pieces of constancy in our lives, adventures that we could turn to again and again. Despite their own changes, we know their patterns and rhythms, their protagonists and villains, their beginnings and endings.
But of course, this isn’t true. Books change because we change. The magic of a childhood tale can be worn away by cynicism, or because we see it for what it truly is – a simple story. New meanings come to light, once-common historic views are exposed for being dated or offensive.
Sometimes books become dearer to us, perspective giving us a different perspective on an old tale. I remember loving Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, falling in love with Phedre and Joscelin, feeling somehow disappointed by the second trilogy, following another character. Sometime later, I came back to it when I was having a difficult time, but found the first trilogy a little unsatisfying. Excellently written, yes, but not resonant with how I was feeling. The second trilogy somehow felt a little darker, a little more in keeping with how I felt, Imriel’s struggles more in line with my own.
And sometimes we simply aren’t ready for a book; I remember trying to read the Lord of the Rings at a very young age, getting far too confused with all the characters, sub-plots and sprawling explanations.
Of course, some books remain great, and grow greater as you read them, every crease and mark on their covers and pages mapping to your own life experiences, struggles and adventures. And as Iain Banks and Clive Barker both said, they’re greater for it. These are the books that are your true life companions, masterpieces that somehow manage to change with you – and they’re few and far between.