Monday, July 8, 2013

July Theme: GELATO by John Claude Bemis

Italy is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.  It’s full of extraordinary cultural wonders.  From its history and people to its art and architecture, not to mention all those singular locales like Venice, Florence, and the Cinque Terre. I could go on and on.

But for me, Italy’s most amazing cultural wonder is gelato. 

My wife and I don’t let a day go by when we’re in Italy that we don’t eat gelato.  Calories be damned.  If you think gelato is just ice cream, you’ve clearly not been to Italy.  And that’s just it.  In the locovore mad, uber-foodie part of North Carolina where I live, there have been lots of places popping up that serve “gelato.”  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s good ice cream.  But it’s not gelato.  Or at least not the way I remember gelato tasting.

Do they do something different in Italy to make their gelato taste so much better than what’s called gelato here in the States?  Or is it just how I experienced gelato on vacation in Italy, with all the other positive associations, that made it taste that good?

Some books are like this too.  There are books I read in my childhood that I had fixed in my mind as absolutely amazing that when I read them again as an adult, I was disappointed.  This is going to sound like blasphemy to some, but I was let down when I read Prince Caspian to my daughter this summer.  She loved it!  But I found myself getting impatient with all the long passages of description and endless walking through the woods.  Somebody needed to tighten that story up!

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore C.S. Lewis.  Prince Caspian is still a classic with its own special narrative magic: seeing Narnia again thousands of years after the events of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the anticipation of when Trumpkin will realize who the Pevensie children really are, and the introduction of my all-time-favorite Narnian the fearless swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep.  Overall however, the book was not nearly as great as I remembered it from my childhood. 

As I’ve been reading books from my childhood to my daughter, I’m discovering which books are just as amazing all these years later and which books seem to have diminished now that I’m an adult reading them.  The Neverending Story by Michael Ende…more inventive and emotionally riveting that I remembered.  The original Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi…sort of preachy, meandering, and with some odd dark turns (Pinocchio smashes the talking cricket with a mallet within three pages of his character being introduced.  Really!?).


Like gelato, sometimes it’s hard to know whether a book is really that great on its own or whether it is just a product of the time and place when you first enjoyed it.  I’d love to know which beloved books from your childhood have held up and which ones have let you down.

4 comments:

  1. THE PAIN AND THE GREAT ONE was one of my first picture books. When I looked at the book again as an adult, I completely understood why I'd loved it as a kid (so much of the book was so similar to my own situation with a younger brother),and I also thought it was fantastic as an adult. Yay, Judy!

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  2. Oh gelato, it's heavenly! And I agree, you have to actually be in Italy to get the true gelato experience.

    I never read the Narnia books as a kid but I remember running across 'The Neverending Story' years ago - I loved that book! Good to hear it's stood the test of time. I seem to recall it was translated from German. Not sure if I read the original 'Pinocchio,' but it was definitely a dark tale, with quite a few creepy characters.

    I adored the Edward Eager books as a child but for a long time they were out of print. I think in the 90s they came back in print and I've collected them all and they're still wonderful, whimsical, time-travel stories. I love that, while time-traveling, the four kids bump into their parents who time-traveled when they were children!

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  3. Great question! These three never disappoint: HENRY HUGGINS by Beverly Cleary, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS by Wilson Rawsl and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee.

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  4. The Betsy-Tacy books of Maud Hart Lovelace never disappoint, for me. But some of the series fiction of Enid Blyton, which I adored as a child, now seem SO sexist and racist, with the same plots repeated over and over again. I sure did love them when I was ten, though.

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