Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Classic' Love of Literature ; an Idea Occurred to Me. Why Not Find the Classics Illustrated Comic of a Book I Know Intimately?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A 'Classic' Love of Literature ; an Idea Occurred to Me. Why Not Find the Classics Illustrated Comic of a Book I Know Intimately?

Article excerpt

My years as a very young reader fell squarely within the heyday of Classics Illustrated, a 160-plus-volume comic-book series that condensed and simplified great works of literature into 40 or 50 pages of cartoon frames. They might have horrified the original authors, but the little comics utterly absorbed me.I was born at the height of the bookmobile era as well, and I copiously read the "real stuff" of children's literature, which was motored on a weekly basis to the curb in front of my grammar school. I loved the long vehicle, the broad carpeted step from the children's to the adult section, and the volumes I took home and savored.But those comics beckoned, too. They were perfect fare for reading when I was stretched out and dripping on a beach towel in the backyard after a swim in the neighbors' pool - 25-cent investments whose damp pages dried overnight. They became crinkled over time with repeated thumbing, but I'd paid my quarter and there was no librarian to answer to.Most of the comics were naturally child-centered - "The Swiss Family Robinson," "Tom Brown's School Days," "Kidnapped," "Huckleberry Finn," "Kim," and "Oliver Twist," among many others. They were, in fact, heavily boy-oriented but palatable to me - after all, when I read the book "The Secret Garden," I'd wanted to be Dicken, not marry him.Packed with vivid bursts of dialogue and action, Classics Illustrated fed my occasional yearning for adventure without a lot of descriptive prose. "The Little Savage" transformed my backyard into a deserted isle in a matter of minutes.Age brought patience, and real books finally and fully replaced the comics. I came to savor those long literary passages - Jody's reverie watching the whooping cranes dance in "The Yearling," Scout puzzling on the protocols of growing up as a girl in the South in "To Kill a Mockingbird."By the time I took up "The Caine Mutiny" in seventh grade, shivering at Queeg's obsession with those little steel balls, I hadn't opened a Classics Illustrated in years.I came across one of those early childhood staples the other day in a vintage comic shop. …

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