Friday, March 11, 2011

On the Last Bastion of Original Storytelling

I'm going to start by talking a  little about my Mother-in-Law.  My M.I.L. and I get along quite well.  I find it sad that the relationship between a husband (or wife) and his in-laws is assumed to be one of conflict. One of the things I love about my mother in law is that, like me, she is a bibliophile.  Not only do we both love to read, but we both love many of the same genres and authors and have enjoyed several of the same titles.  It gives us another connection beyond that of our relationship by marriage.  Our interactions are made easier by the understanding that even if I hadn't married her daughter, we still could have been good friends.

This morning my M.I.L. and I were having breakfast and talking about some of the books we have read.  She asked me a very good question that I will relate to you.  Have you ever looked back and reread any of the books you enjoyed during you adolescence?  If you have then what did you think of them now that you've grown up?

It's been fourteen years since I graduated from high school, and I remember that I was not the bookworm that I am today.  It was during my college years that I was introduced to most of the books that have earned themselves a place in my mind.  A cursory perusal of my bookshelf offered a few titles that were representations of my youth.

I have a few volumes of Robert Aspirin's Myth Adventures series.  I remember first reading these during my salad days of the fifth grade.  I purchased them in recent years for some lighter fare to cleanse my palate between more adult offerings.  Even in my adulthood I found them to be very appealing with their good natured cons, tongue-in-cheek use of puns, and PG-13 prurience.  These books were written for a 10-year-old boy, and will always appeal to that Lost Boy inside me.  As my daughter (a voracious reader like her old man) approaches the same age it is my hope that she will find some amusement in the many dimensions explored by Aahz and Skeeve.

I also see two omnibuses from the fantasy world of Krynn: the annotated Chronicles and the Elven Nations Trilogy.  A good friend of mine suggested that the fantasy pulp novel was the male version of the female's Harlequin romance, which I found to be surprisingly astute.  I'm actually in the process of re-reading the E.N.T. for the first time since high school, and I am finding them to be far less satisfying this time around.  The storyline is more awkwardly paced, the character development more ham-fisted, and the use of deus ex machina more pronounced in resolving the problems.  I find it reminiscent of my own awkwardness during adolescence, and perhaps that is the reason that I connected with it at that time.  I remember rereading the Chronicles a year or so ago, and feeling similar sentiments to a greatly reduced degree, it could have been due to a better quality of writing, or the fact that my Chronicles volume contains notes from the author that provided some level of insight as to the process of creating the series.  Likely it was a combination of the two.

Finally there are a couple of Stephen King novels that I distinctly remember first picking up when I was fifteen or so.  Specifically It and The Stand.  I have reread both of these at least once since my daughter has been born.  What I find unique about King's work is that it elicits many of the same feelings that it did the first time around.  On one hand, there are no new disappointments when reading them as an adult.  There is something universal about his writing that speaks to both young adults and fully grown readers.  Furthermore, because I had read more of King's work when I reread both of these, I had gained a more understanding attitude toward some of the aspects of his writing that I found disappointing the first time around; specifically his difficulty in creating an ending as satisfying as the story that precedes it.  I had become accustomed to his foibles, and I still enjoyed his work in spite of them.

Strangely, none of the required reading of my youth has made it to my personal library, though there are many titles that would like to sample again.  I hope to once again have the chance to run with Cooper's Hawkeye.  I want to witness the struggle for power between Ralph and Jack Merridew.  I am even curious to see if my reading has matured enough to finally figure out what was the big deal about Catherine and Heathcliff's thwarted love.

I also find myself curious about some of the new generation of YA fiction writers that I see my daughter enjoying.  Those authors who are putting out a constant stream of the new order of serial fiction, who owe their entire livelihood to J.K. Rowling.  Some of the worlds they have put together are fascinating.  The Princess just finished the first volume in the 100 Cupboards series.  I hope to read it myself soon and perhaps use this medium to write a co-review that critiques the book from both an 8-year-old's and a 30-something's perspective.

So while some trips down memory lane have been far more rewarding than others, I still find myself with the occasional urge to revisit the worlds in which I once lost myself.  I must work to balance my literary palate and keep up a steady stream of new choices, there are too many great stories out there that I still have yet to read.

1 comment:

  1. I am really, really REALLY going to need your help when Eli gets to YA Fiction age. All the books look the same (cheesy) and I may not have the strength to read them to find out if they are worthwhile . . .

    Let's see here . . . as a kid I really liked: Tolkien and CS Lewis (which have of course stood the test of time); the Hardy Boys (which, at least the Dixon ones, are still fairly good even at my old age); more serious, classic, historical YA Fiction ('The King's Fifth' by Scott O'Dell was my favorite book for years - I just bought it to reread but I expect that all the history I've read in the intervening 20 years will only make me enjoy it more) . . .