Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happy Birthday, Richard Adams

Every day I get the Writer's Almanac in my inbox. Honestly, usually I can't be bothered to finish reading the poems they send and I hurriedly skim the newsletter that follows, but I'm glad I didn't miss this item: 

Today is the birthday of the novelist Richard Adams, born in Wash Common, England (1920). He was working as a civil servant, and he had two young daughters, for whom he often made up stories. They were preparing for a long car trip when one of the girls told him he had to make up a new story, a long one that would last the whole journey. He began to spin a yarn about a band of rabbits escaping the destruction of their warren. There was Fiver, a weakling and a prophet; along with Hazel and Bigwig, inspired by two soldiers Adams had known during the war.
The story lasted the trip and more, and when it was done, Adams' daughter Juliet said, "You ought to write it down, Daddy. It's too good to waste." He did, taking nearly two years, and it was rejected by many publishers as too grown-up for kids and too simple for adults. A small publisher finally accepted it, but only printed a small initial run and couldn't afford to pay Adams any advance. After notable positive reviews, sales took off and within a couple of years, Watership Down (1972) had sold more than a million copies.

On my dad's recommendation, I read Watership Down in 1997, on the two-week trip my family took to adopt my oldest little brother, Billy. I'm overdue to reread it. I remember being very emotionally invested in those poor little rabbits. I'd never heard the story behind the book, so what an interesting little surprise.

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