MetaFilter Helps Solve Half Remembered Book Mystery March 11, 2020 4:18 PM   Subscribe

On April 22, 2019, "An Interview with Mefi's Own Jessamyn" was posted on MeTa by Stanczyk. During the interview Jessamyn said,"we let you read whatever the heck you want, even if you’re a kid" and that reminded me of a book I had tried to find for years, that I had checked out in the mid 60s when I was about 12.

Then a couple days ago I read a FP post: How Many Librarians Does It Take to Find a Forgotten Book? posted by MonkeyToes.

Inspired by tips in the post I did another search and found the book within 10 minutes. All I could remember was that the title contained "Paradise," it was told from three POV, and one of the characters was a heroin addict.

It was James Lee Burke's Half of Paradise. I looked at some reviews, and several readers mentioned that it is one of the most depressing books that they ever read. Now I would not recommend a child read it, but it may have scared me enough to to never use heroin. (I started doing psychedelics at 14, but was never tempted to do heroin even once.)

Thank you MetaFilter, MeFites Stanczyk, Jessamyn, and MonkeyToes. for helping solve this mystery. And a world of thanks to librarians!
posted by a humble nudibranch to MetaFilter-Related at 4:18 PM (20 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Awwww. Good work everybody!
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:19 PM on March 11, 2020

posted by jessamyn (temp) at 5:15 PM on March 11, 2020

posted by Stanczyk at 5:33 PM on March 11, 2020

And just to clarify, I'm not Jessamyn's secret sock puppet. Here's the link to my profile.
posted by Stanczyk at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Glad you found it, a humble nudibranch!

Lost book-filter on the green has been the greatest training for helping patrons find forgotten favorites. They're a little embarrassed to ask, but I'm like "I live for these questions, tell me what you remember!" Thank you, book finders of Ask Metafilter!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can confirm: Stanczyk is not Jessamyn; and I can also confirm that librarians are the backbone of a healthy civilization.

I can also confirm Jessamyn is a true mensch.

I can also confirm that my objectivity is out the window.
posted by not_on_display at 6:44 PM on March 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

You guys are like superheroes. Only real.
posted by valkane at 7:10 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

what's your favorite childhood book that you rediscovered as an adult?

The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren. I read an excerpt in...Cricket Magazine?....many years ago, and it stuck with me, half-remembered, until I found it again.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:49 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sorry Stanczyk, that I got your profile link mixed up with Jessamyn's. She has a pretty damn cool profile but yours is plenty interesting as well!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:45 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

> what's your favorite childhood book that you rediscovered as an adult?

Phantom Tollbooth.
Norton Juster FTW

As a child I never read...
• any of the AA Milne Pooh stuff
• Wind in the Willows
• Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
(which I still have trouble enjoying)
...I think I may have tried when I was younger because I have memories of the books, but I found them boring. (Or, I preferred the Disney Winnie the Pooh at that age) As an adult, they became so much more interesting. Toad is one of the Great Characters in Literature, I am convinced. Pooh is the reed that bends in the wind. Alice in Wonderland is just wacky-go-nuts, front to end.

I would say Watership Down, and Hobbit/LOTR, too, but I couldn't imagine reading those as a kid—my attention span was really picky. I think I'm lucky though: they're 55%–74% nightmares, all five of the books! But it seemed, when I was a kid, everyone around me had already read them. Those books were definitely on my radar, but I had no idea what they were about. Now I know.

Finally, every ten years or so, since I was around 12, I've tried to read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and as many of its sequels as I can through... but it got worse EVERY TIME I TRIED... Except this last time, when I listened to the series as audio books—read first by Stephen Fry, then subsequently Martin Freeman. They infused the books with a renewed sense of adventure, and I was able to plow through the material again before stalling on So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, which I still can't stand no matter the format.

As a result, I totally forget what Mostly Harmless was about—except it seemed better, involved buffalo stampedes and knife sharpening and sammiches, and Trillian was back as a journalist from an alternate universe. I haven't gotten that far in the series in at least 30 years. Because, as an adult, I find So Long and Thanks for All the Fish to be such a piece of shit.

So I'm thinking of only picking up Mostly Harmless next time.
posted by not_on_display at 10:49 PM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

For the rest of this thread, what's your favorite childhood book that you rediscovered as an adult?

The Light Maze by Joan North was every bit as magical as I remembered it, and had deeper layers I could only see when I returned. She writes like Madeline L'Engle but Taoist.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:12 PM on March 11, 2020

I've always loved that old Mitch Hedberg joke: Every book is a children's book if the kid can read.
posted by Stanczyk at 3:50 AM on March 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I've always loved that old Mitch Hedberg joke: Every book is a children's book if the kid can read.

But then my 12-year-old found No Longer Human online (now in the public domain) and I'm not laughing.

Also: can vouch for Stanczyk. Good People!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:58 AM on March 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

> But then my 12-year-old found . . .

That's a whole other subject: things I did read as a kid and maybe shouldn't have, but didn't know better. Books I found on the bookshelf, but I just didn't understand; then, as an adult I realized that I'd been way too young for the intended demographic, and/or the subject matter was very complex/troublesome/problematic; etc. (e.g. books I read before age 12: Looking for Mr. Goodbar... I thought it was gonna be about candy, I swear. A Clockwork Orange... the movie poster looked funny; I bet the book is, and 'cause they won't let me see the movie...)
posted by not_on_display at 8:56 AM on March 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

I tried reading Anna Karenina and Joyce's Ulysses at 12 and couldn't make it all the way through. Long books I did enjoy (and finish): Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge and Of Human Bondage. I also read Lord of the Rings and loved it so much, I reread it every year during winter break for years. Also got hooked on Jane Austen, Arnold Bennett, Charles Dickens, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I was a bit crazed with Victorian/Edwardian British authors, which later got me a lot of awe from my high school English teachers.

I book I rediscovered as an adult was The Velveteen Rabbit. I didn't remember what a tearjerker it was and cried like a baby.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:42 AM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've pared my bookshelf down to just a few categories and one of them is "books i loved as a kid." I at least glance at those books several times a day and they trigger memories of other books I loved as a kid.

Most recently I've bought The Keeping Days, The Golden Treasury of Poetry and The Monster at the End of this Book.
posted by bendy at 8:36 PM on March 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

And now I'm looking for a copy of Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth.
posted by bendy at 8:41 PM on March 12, 2020

I've pared my bookshelf way down and I call it Watertown Free Public Library. LIBRARIES RULE! Everyone keeps a safe distance! Plenty of hand washing stations! I am gonna be there a lot because the workplace told us to work from home and, yeah, that doesn't always get me all motivated. My comfy bed gets me motivated. Mmmm where was I? OH YES THE LIBERRY I WOULD LIVE IN ONE

I still keep old MAD magazines around, though.
posted by not_on_display at 9:17 PM on March 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've always loved that old Mitch Hedberg joke: Every book is a children's book if the kid can read. thanks

I was always a serious kid, an only of older parents, and their friends were always buying me reading matter way beyond my age; I received The Choirboys on my 11th birthday and lot of other books with R18 tags. It's sure one way to stay ahead of the pack!
posted by unearthed at 10:42 PM on March 12, 2020

Regarding "children's book if the children can read":

When I was eight years old, a relative had bought a gift for my sister. When my mother asked the relative why there was no gift for me, that relative went to the bargain bin at Waldenbooks and grabbed a random book.

That is how I learned about the Jonestown massacre.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 8:46 AM on March 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

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