revisiting the silver metal lover

Kinuko Craft www,tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica,com (10)

So rarely do I revisit stories that I loved as an adolescent and find that they resonate with me just as deeply now as they did then. It almost never happens.

Because there’s something incomparably magical about being on the cusp of adulthood; it’s like everything has the glow of approaching dawn. You can finally understand things more fully and realize the implications of life and relationships, you can analyze, but childhood’s magic still clings to you. You’re in a limbo where every feeling is amplified, So Important, and every sadness is a life-ending tragedy. Every joy is a reason to run down the street, singing. Every book you read is a life-changing masterpiece.

But when you’re grown, it fades.

When I was a teenager, I read a book called The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. I had read her book Biting the Sun, which was my favorite book at the time (and still is). When I first read BTS, it struck a deep chord in me. I read it many times. It made me long for things I couldn’t name, just like the protagonist longed. I related to her, and understood her, and felt for her. But when I read The Silver Metal Lover, I’m not sure I felt the same way.

I don’t remember much about my experience reading TSML. Which is odd, because even if I can’t remember an event or even the plot from a book, I can almost always remember how it made me feel. But I had no memory of my feelings about TSML when I decided to reread it. I did know that I liked it, enough to own two copies, and enough to have recommended it to all my friends when I read it. Other than that, it was a big emptiness. Forgotten.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I’m trying to work my way through my favorite Tanith Lee books. She’s my favorite author, and I find her work to be so beautiful, and I want to emulate her style in some ways, but make it my own. So I’ve been reading to be inspired. That’s why I picked up The Silver Metal Lover again, thinking I’d probably read it and enjoy it like I enjoy most books now, and move on.

I just finished reading it tonight.

I’m absolutely shocked that I had remembered little to nothing about the story. I recalled nothing about the relationship between Jane (the protagonist) and Silver (the robot she loves). I had no idea. I’m kind of baffled to the point of being amazed that, having read this book again as an adult, a jaded old adult who finds it so difficult to be moved to tears by books anymore (when as a teenager I could fly into a fit of emotion over the smallest thing), I am infinitely more moved by TSML now than I was as a teenager.

Why didn’t the book reach me as a teenager, when it should have shattered me? Maybe it was because I had no comparison to draw when it came to romantic love. I didn’t understand what it felt like to be in love; I had to imagine, so maybe it didn’t connect. Or maybe I hadn’t experienced enough of life to be affected by the poignancy of how fleeting it is (I was still invincible, then). Or maybe it was because I hadn’t discovered myself yet, so to read about someone coming of age felt foreign, or unknowable.

Whatever the reason, I didn’t connect with the book then the way I connected with it just now, as a grown-ass jaded old woman. I can’t describe the way it made me feel. It’s impossible.

The Silver Metal Lover is a romance, but only in that it’s a story that revolves around two people who are in love — a teenage girl, and a totally lifelike robot. What it’s really about, at the core of it, is Jane’s journey into adulthood. Her relationship with her mother. The nature of true friendship. Finding happiness. Finding herself, and learning to love the person she becomes. Above all, though, because this is a story about a girl in love with a robot, is the question of what it means to be alive. It’s a love story because the tension is all wound up in Jane and Silver’s mutual tragedy. And yes, it’s tragic. I cried countless times while reading. But I think what really cut me to the core, what moved me so thoroughly that I sat in bed and sobbed uncontrollably for ages after finishing the book, was how truly life-affirming it was, while still reminding us that life is fleeting. Life is amazing because it is fleeting. And sometimes love is just as fleeting, but the things we learn and the ways we grow in each relationship are necessary to live.

I don’t think I understood that, as a teen. Or maybe I did. Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit. Maybe I really did forget sitting in my bed at sixteen, holding this book to my chest, crying and crying. But I don’t think so.

What I really want to say is: I’m grateful. I’m so grateful that I read The Silver Metal Lover again, at a time when I could appreciate it. And I’m even more grateful that it gave me that feeling again — that feeling of being young, with the last remnants of childhood’s golden magic clinging to me, where everything is so much Bigger and More, and everything I see or feel or read or hear is a galaxy of feelings and experiences that I can barely begin to access or understand.

I’m grateful that I was able to feel that again, even for the briefest time.

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