There is one novel that will forever stand out in my mind as being the #1 Book That I Wish I Had Never Found.
I was about fourteen at the time, looking for a book in a Bargain Books store when I found what looked like an interesting grown-up take on Santa Claus and his, well, adventures for lack of a better term. Despite the blurb and thanks to the somewhat vague summary on the book’s jacket, I decided it seemed more along the lines of Wicked than anything horrific. So I convinced my father to buy it and took it home.
Shortly after opening it up, I experienced the sort of grief-stricken remorse that most protagonists in Horror films do when they end up keeping the weird thing given to them by a creepy neighbor or old gypsy fortune teller. Because I only had myself to blame for reading a book that proved to be a most brutal assault on childhood cheer and far too much for my awkward teen self to handle.
At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do after I gave up on finishing it. I’d already gotten in trouble for reading Elfquest and I didn’t feel like getting in trouble again over a book I didn’t like anyway so eventually I gave it to a friend so it would leave my life forever. And once I got over the shock of it all, I was mostly just annoyed that I had even bothered with it. This wasn’t like this was my first time finding a book that just didn’t suit my interests, but it was probably the most memorable. Well, outside of when I was 11 or so and the Fantasy novel I got proved to be chock full of magical sex scenes with a warlock from the point of view of some lady’s overly intelligent cat. But I digress.
Over the years, I have done my level best to put the horror behind me. Sure, life lost a bit of a rosy hue for a few weeks, but I found other books that were less… well, less likely to give me an ulcer or make me give up on reading entirely. And yes, every now and then I would feel ill even thinking about Santa Claus and his wife. Or the Easter Bunny. And every now and then I would even think to myself, Of all the Bargain Book stores in all the northwest suburbs of Illinois, that book just had to end up in mine. But I was fine. Fine, of course, until those rare moments where my friend that ended up taking the book from me would bring it up and I would feel incredibly guilty and remorseful for so much as telling him about it. BUT for the most part I had, I’m delighted to say, forgotten the title, the author, and much of the book’s contents.
Unfortunately had is the key word in that sentence. Because today I have once again stumbled upon it and now, like a patient recovering from her trauma-induced amneisa, I remember it all very vividly. And it’s just so not fair. I could have gone the rest of my life without remembering Santa Steps Out by Robert Devereaux. Or without learning that it had been brought back into print.
Oh well. At least I’m unlikely to ever remember the name of the weird Fantasy book with the warlock and the cat. That’s something. Right?
* Irrational thus far.