Update: congrats to Linda A. who was randomly chosen as our winner! Linda has been notified via email.
As a child I lived for stories—we would go to the library or the bookstore and I would walk along the shelves and feel the spines, knowing that under every cover was a world I could fall into. I loved Wuthering Heights for its dark and wild strangeness; I loved the restless heart of Hemingway’s old fisherman and his dream of lions playing on the beach in The Old Man and the Sea. I loved Barrie’s Peter Pan—Tiger Lily, flying children, pirates—the defiant magic of Neverland—that elsewhere place which to me still represents the transcendent dream-like shimmer laid over everyday life that I feel when I am immersed in a story.
But the book that haunted me most as a child was The Little Prince—that deft, lovely blade of a novel by Antoine Saint-Exupéry. I’ve read it in French. I’ve read it to my sons in English. And it still haunts me. The story of an aviator whose plane goes down in the Sahara where he encounters an extraordinary little boy, who says: “Please, draw me a sheep.” A boy who is in love with a rose from another planet and who falls from a kind of innocence and sets out on a journey through various adult worlds, deserts, and dangers, in a lonely despair because his love is not returned. A boy who hears the laughter of the stars like tiny bells, who measures time in sunsets and contends, “If somebody wants a sheep, it is a proof that one exists.”
There are other lines that still rise up in me: “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well” and ”It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is most essential is invisible to the eye.” Even young, those bits of wisdom rattled around like hard little gems inside me.
The Little Prince is a kind of fable—simple and eloquent, strung through with moments of blinding clarity; a faith in love, artistic imagination, the transient beauty of flower. And it is, by turns, a lyric and scathing reminder of the rightness of how a child sees.
To write well, I find that I have to be able to drop my adult mind and meet the world as I once did as a child—with that openness of living in the moment, excised from time—observing, listening, feeling without thinking, seeing as the Little Prince sees—
In The Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry renders a world that is not entirely of this world: art is not peripheral or indulgent, but deeply essential to life; there is use in beauty; and what is eternal exists within a moment—even if that moment is a fragment of artistic imagination, a story, or a dream.
We’re giving away a copy of Dawn’s latest novel, GAME OF SECRETS, to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post to be entered and we’ll draw a winner at the end of the day.
In 1957, Jane Weld was eleven years old when her father Luce, a petty thief, disappeared. His skiff was found drifting near the marsh, empty except for his hunting coat and a box of shot-gun shells. No one in his small New England town knew for sure what happened until, three years later, his skull rolled out of a gravel bank by the river, a bullet hole in the temple. There were rumors he had been murdered by the jealous husband of his mistress, Ada Varick. Now, half a century later, Jane is still searching for the truth of her father’s death, a mystery made more urgent by the unexpected romance that her willful daughter, Marne, has struck up with one of Ada’s sons. As their love affair intensifies, Jane and Ada meet for a casual Friday boardgame, that soon transforms into a cat-and-mouse game of words long left unspoken, dark secrets best left untold.