One week ago today, I was sitting in a crowd with hundreds of other people, gathered in McCarren Park Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a beautiful clear night, to watch the last SummerScreen movie of the season. Not just because I love watching movies outside in the summer, but because the audience voted online for the final film, The Neverending Story.
I danced and sang to the theme song for the movie, I shouted “Falcor!”, the name of the giant luckdragon when he made his first appearance, I cheered when Atreyu made it past the Southern Oracle, got slightly teary eyed when Atreyu’s horse Artex submits himself to the Swamp of Sadness, was on edge when Bastian couldn’t see that he was the only one who could save Fantasia, and smiled when he did.
And while the movie may be a bit different from the book, I was introduced to the movie first when I saw it in a theater when I was nine years old. I don’t remember going to the actual theater, but I do remember when my mother bought me the book, which was black and had the AURYN, the lemniscate symbol with two serpents devouring each other. Bastian wrapped himself up in musty blankets and read his copy of the The Neverending Story in a chilly, dark attic, the pages illuminated by candle light. I used a crochet afghan that my mother made me and opted for a flashlight.
Some books make us nostalgic about our childhood. They remind us of a time when life seemed less chaotic—when our priorities for the day involved things like daydreaming and reading a good book—and help reinforce the importance of the power of imagination. Bastian reads The Neverending Story, but becomes part of it as well.
‘I wonder,’ he said to himself, ‘what’s in a book while it’s closed. Oh, I know it’s full of letters printed on paper, but all the same, something must be happening, because as soon as I open it, there’s a whole story with people I don’t know yet and all kinds of adventures and deeds and battles. And sometimes there are storms at sea, or it takes you to strange cities and countries. All those things are somehow shut up in a book. Of course you have to read it to find out. But it’s already there, that’s the funny thing. I wish I knew how it could be.’
Suddenly an almost festive mood came over him.
He settled himself, picked up the book, opened it to the first page, and began to read
The Neverending Story.
There’s a cycle here. I can’t even count the times I have seen the movie, but after seeing it on the large screen again, I decided to re-read the book. Sadly, I don’t have my original copy anymore, but I borrowed a friend’s last summer when I discovered it on his childhood bookshelf at his summer beach house. Dave, I’ll give you your book back after I’m done. Promise.