A long time ago…
It seems all the best stories start this way. Including my own.
A long time ago, in the spring of 1977, I was 13 years old and Star Wars had just hit the big screen. I asked my parents if we could see it, but my dad was recovering from surgery, so it would be a while before the family could go.
A lot of my friends were talking about this amazing new film. On the surface it sounded silly: swords made of light, a seven-foot-tall shaggy hero, a metallic Laurel and Hardy-like android duo, a killer moon, and star fighters. I was dying to know what the buzz was about. So, while I waited to see the movie with my family, my mother found me a copy of the Star Wars novelization.
That spring images from the movie were everywhere, so I could easily picture the scenes in my head as a read. I was struck by the creativity of the story and was drawn into the mythology. I felt a connection with Luke from the start. I still remember exactly where I was when Luke’s best friend was killed towards the end of the book: in the back seat of the family car on Interstate 95 on our way to Rhode Island.
A good book will do that to you. The characters start to feel like old friends, or old enemies. The settings, no matter how fantastic, become familiar places. A movie is a very visual thing, so it can restrict your freedom to see things in your own way. Books, on the other hand, give you a place to start and then your imagination fills in the details. In your mind’s eye the scenes are truly three-dimensional. The sounds, smells, even the textures of those imaginary places are as real as any memory of an actual, physical place you’ve visited.
Three years later I read The Empire Strikes Back before seeing the film. One afternoon that I’ll never forget, I was sitting in the back of a bus heading home, reading. It was at the climactic scene when Vader, standing over a beaten Luke, says, “No, I am your father.”
What?! What had I just read? I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I read the paragraph again. “Together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”
No. That couldn’t be true. Someone so evil couldn’t be my hero’s father.
I read it again. And again. I must have missed something. Vader? Luke’s father? But Vader betrayed and murdered Luke’s father! Obi Wan said so.
“Last stop,” a voice said, interrupting my thoughts.
I looked up. I was so involved in the book I hadn’t noticed we’d gone three stops past my house to the end of the bus route. I walked the rest of the way home with visions of Vader towering over Luke. I didn’t know who was more devastated, Luke or me.
That bus ride transported me, but not home. I was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I was seeing the world through the eyes of a farm boy from a desert planet. I was standing on that platform over a bottomless wind shaft. I felt Luke’s utter helplessness. A good book will do that: completely transport you to another time and place. And, sometimes, it will make you miss your bus stop, too.
On Saturday, October 6, Star Wars Reads Day is coming to your galaxy. Join in a celebration of reading and all things Star Wars at over 1,200 bookstores, schools, and libraries nationwide, with giveaways and raffles, and authors and/or costumed characters appearing at select locations. Find an event near you!