Let's not go home again: protecting a book you love, even when you don’t love it anymore
I’ve always been the kind of person who nurtures small obsessions. Case in point: There was a time in middle school when I was not infrequently introduced to people as “Meredith, that girl who likes 'Buffy.'”
It was an extremely fair introduction. I discovered "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" in the fourth or fifth grade, and I rapidly became obsessed. When my local cable affiliate dropped the WB, I spent two years getting up in the wee hours to watch new episodes when they re-aired on Fox at 3:30 a.m. (This was a pre-DVR era.) I delayed my fourteenth birthday party by more than three months so that the “theme” of the party could be “let’s get a group of 25 people together and watch the first episode of season 7 live.”
There is simply no way to describe what "Buffy" meant to me. It can’t be done. I know because I’ve written and re-written this paragraph about 15 times now, trying to sum it up in some way that will get at even a tenth of how important that show was to me, and I end up deleting every word of it in disgust because it’s just not enough.
And yet, when I’ve tried to re-watch "Buffy" as an adult, I can’t. It’s not a case of my tastes having changed, or at least, it’s not only that. It’s that what made it so important to me, the things that I loved about it, are now the things that I find nearly unwatchable.
The last time I tried - two, maybe three years ago - I decided I’d ease my way in by rewatching my favorite episode of all time, season four’s “Something Blue.” In this episode, Buffy’s best friend Willow, heartbroken from a breakup with her longtime boyfriend, casts a spell to have her will done so that she can make him come back to her. It’s a smart, funny episode that also has a lot to say about grief, free will, and the intent of our actions versus the effect they have on others.
I didn’t even make it halfway through.
I will never watch "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" again. I’ll never even try. I have to protect what it meant to me.
When the Book Squad was brainstorming prompts for the Squad Goals Reading Challenge, I suggested that we include a prompt to re-read a book you haven’t read in at least five years. I’m really excited about this prompt; I love to re-read, but since I’ve been working at LPL, I’ve heavily focused on new reads. In the post I wrote announcing the challenge, I said that I was planning to read Annemarie Selinko’s "Désirée," a historical fiction novel about the woman Napoleon was engaged to before he married the Empress Josephine. I was deeply obsessed with it during middle school, but I haven’t read it in several years. “I’m excited to see what I think about it now,” I wrote.
This is, strictly speaking, a great big lie. I’m not excited to see what I think about "Désirée" as an adult.
I’m actually borderline terrified that I’ll feel about it the way that I now feel about "Buffy" - which is, I suspect, the reason that "Désirée" has been hovering near the top of my to-be-read list on GoodReads for the past three years without ever making the switch over to “currently reading.”
I’ve been working on this post off-and-on for close to a month, and in that time, I’ve read about 20 books. I’ve managed a whopping 27 pages of "Désirée."
And they were good pages. I liked reading them. I felt relatively reassured that I would be okay to proceed without desecrating a treasured childhood memory.
And yet, when I reach for something to read, I still don’t reach for "Désirée."
At least I’ve made it to “currently reading.” That’s something, right?
-Meredith Wiggins is a reader’s services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.