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Books for Kids, Not

My sister-in-law Penni forwarded me an email that tells you what was happening in the year you were born. One fact struck me: Par Lagervist won the Nobel Prize for Literature that year. (I’m not saying what year that was. You can look it up.)

Par Lagervist

I hadn’t seen that name or thought of my buddy Par for many years, but he wrote a book I liked a lot when I was a kid, Barabbas, a novel about one of the thieves who was crucified next to Christ, according to legend.

This got me thinking about a few books I read as a child that were not intended for children. It’s not that I was precocious, but I had two older sisters who left books lying around, and my parents had lots of books that I’d pick up now and then. Barabbas wasn’t inappropriate in a sexual sense (or not that I remember), but it was dark and serious and spiritual.

A very different book but similarly adult in theme was A Dog’s Head by Jean Dutourd. I probably thought it was about dogs, but no. Here’s the Amazon description.

“Jean Dutourd’s A Dog’s Head is a wonderful piece of magical realism, reminiscent of Voltaire, Borges and Kafka. With biting wit, Dutourd presents the story of Edmund Du Chaillu, a boy born, to his bourgeois parents’s horror, with the head of a spaniel. Edmund must endure his school-mate’s teasing as well as an urge to carry a newspaper in his mouth. This is the story of his life, trials, and joys as he searches for a normal life of worth and love.” The New Yorker described it as “an excellent joke in the worst possible taste.”

Not exactly kiddie lit, in other words, and it did contain some sexual suggestion, as I recall. I probably didn’t catch all the connections with Voltaire, Borges, and Kafka.

I was fascinated by these books, I think, because I knew I wasn’t understanding them completely. I was intrigued by their sophistication. I’ve never reread either one as an adult, but maybe I will now.

Does this strike a chord? Can you remember reading and liking something as a child that you weren’t supposed to, for whatever reason?

5 Comments

  1. Kim Christopher wrote:

    I read The Thornbirds as a kid and I couldn’t put it down!! I felt all grown up reading it and felt guilty about reading it because of the story line.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  2. Kathy wrote:

    Ah! I read James Michener’s Hawaii the same way!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  3. Kim Christopher wrote:

    By the way, I am reading the book, The Help right now and love it! Can’t wait for the movie to come out soon!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  4. Kathy wrote:

    I enjoyed that book, too!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  5. Kim Christopher wrote:

    I sat next to a friend who ate a piece of chocolate pie last night and all I could do was grin at her. I asked her if she read “The Help” yet and she said no, so I kept my mouth shut. lol!

    Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

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