The moment I read the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes stands out as a shining moment of revelation in my elementary school career: I can see the book, with its large print, spread open on my desk. I think that poem actually altered my brain from that point forward.
In fifth grade, I read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. My sister Susan and I liked to build forts on Saturday mornings: a square of chairs draped with overlapping blankets, held in place with an assortment of rubber bands and laundry clips. It was inside such a fort, accompanied by my teddy bear companions, that I first read this book and wept with the beauty of the story. For the rest of the year, I was that kid who wandered around the playground staring at clouds, pretending I was the Lady Amalthea. This is why Beagle’s book transformed my dreams: I looked like an ordinary girl, you see, but I was in fact something very different inside.
Junior high, heading to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for a long summer weekend, I read a collection of Poe’s short stories by the light of passing streetlights. I only closed the book when it was literally too dark to read. I already loved “The Raven” and I was thrilled by Poe’s macabre voice—that crazed narrator, sputtering madness and beauty at the same time. I wonder if this is where my love of unreliable, somewhat lunatic narrators began; a precurser to my mirror-obsessed, knife-wielding Erzebet Bizecka.