[Lounge #435] »« A poll…by AXE? Really?

The stages of reading

Lynda Barry has carefully dissected the stages of reading and illustrated all 20.

barrybooks

I’m at a loss, though. I’m either arrested somewhere around stage 12, or I got to stage 20 while skipping 13-19.

(First series I finished: does Dr Seuss count? Otherwise, it was Wrinkle in Time. First genre: Science Fiction, of course.)

Comments

  1. says

    I think I went straight from 1 to 20. I taught myself to read when I was 3, out of frustration of being told no by every adult I asked to teach me (it was thought to be a bad thing then, for some reason.)

    I don’t remember my first series, although I remember reading The Lord of the Rings books when I was 8 years old or so. I was reading at college level at a young age, so I was allowed to read anything I wanted, with the proviso that I had a notebook and dictionary handy, to look up unfamiliar words.

  2. Jacob Schmidt says

    I hated books till I got to Encyclopedia Brown. Cute little mysteries for kids that I never could solve.

  3. Brian says

    I’m sorry, PZ: Are you trying to say you never experienced stages 13-15? If so, you’re a better human being than myself.

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    About reading early:

    My father told me that Hamilton vs. Bullfinch was a brutally unfair smack down and not to pick up Bullfinch. So, of course, I had to read Hamilton to see what was so good about her. She was awesome of course. So I re-read her a couple times over the next year or two, before finally deciding I had to read Bullfinch. I actually liked it quite a bit, but had to concede that I liked Edith Hamilton better.

    Unfortunately, I was holding on to it [Bullfinch] when we went into Powell’s. A cashier told me to put it up on the counter so that they could ring it in. I had to quickly tell them that, no, it wasn’t a used book we were buying, it was my dad’s copy. He told me it looked hard to read. I said that it wasn’t that bad, but definitely Hamilton was better, especially her telling of Jason & Medea, but the way Bullfinch handled the 12 great Olympians was really good, and the short stories were good for reading on the bus.

    He kind of goggled. I was 7 & just finishing up first grade.

  5. says

    Chigau:

    #7 also hit me hard.
    and still does

    It’s hard when a favourite author dies or stops writing. I’m still bummed out that there will never be any more Bloodhound mysteries because Virginia Lanier died. And it was a blow that Stieg Larsson died so young, and Douglas Adams, and so many others.

  6. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Caine

    I don’t think I was necessarily giving Bullfinch a fair shake. I had read Hamilton probably 3 times through, plus lots of rereading favorite stories (I didn’t dwell on the house of Atreus, the Norse myths at the end got extra attention, like that). Part of being partial to it was being more familiar with it.

  7. Al Dente says

    I find a lot of the books I read as a teenager have not aged well. I loved Lord of the Rings when I was in high school. I reread it after seeing the movies. It wasn’t as good as I remembered. However some books did get better. I read Catch-22 in high school and found it mildly amusing. I reread it after I got out of the military and it was simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking.

  8. kittehserf says

    What a great cartoon. :)

    I still have a major Scribbled On Book effort somewhere (The How And Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs). Never went through the book club stages, or knew there were such things; I wasn’t into talking about books I’d read, I just wanted to read ‘em. Never went through the “this type of book is cool and that isn’t” either, because just admitting you liked reading at my high school put you into the “despised” basket.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever read “real” writers, unless Austen and Trollope count (and it’s only one book from each anyway). If anything I steer clear of them. When I’ve tried the “This is a Great Book/Great Author/Classic,” especially in something like a genre such as SF, I tend to think “People rave about this thing?” and drop it post-haste: Asimov, for instance (dessicated), or Dune (zzzzzzzzzz) or Canticle for Leibowitz (ditto).

    I spent years reading mostly history books, because I wanted to learn about particular people. Other than that, plenty of genre (horror/fantasy in my teens, vampires and Pratchett in my thirties, some detective fiction in my forties, all mixed).

  9. magistramarla says

    I learned to read with Black Beauty at about age 6. By the time that I was 10 or 11, I decided to read all of “the classics” – Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, The Bronte sisters, etc. When I read Jane Eyre, I formed a great attachment to Jane. As an abused little girl myself, I felt that I truly understood Jane and loved her. I read that book at least once a year until a few years after I was married. To this day, I will still pick it up and read it once in a while.
    My hubby introduced me to Science Fiction when we first started dating, and it has become a lifelong habit. BTW, I’m a fan of Hamilton, too!
    Our oldest daughter was reading at an advanced level at an early age, too. When she was 10, we had just finished reading “Clan of the Cave Bear” and she heard us discussing it with our friends. As we packed up for a family vacation, she asked to take the book along to read. We agreed, but stipulated that she should discuss her day’s reading with us after we got the younger kids to bed at each night’s stop. She had some very good questions for us, and enjoyed the very adult level of reading.
    After that, we usually tended to share whatever we were reading with her.

  10. says

    Kittehserf:

    or Dune (zzzzzzzzzz)

    Hahahaha, oh, I know people who would have an absolute fit over that. I like Dune myself, but unless you’re into reading about layers of politics and power dynamics, it could be a slog.

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I avoided most of the “classics” except Wigglestick. I read the Oxford complete Wigglestick when I was 13-14 yo.

  12. says

    I made a point of reading the classics. I didn’t care for all of them, but they were interesting. I will shout out my love for Sinclair Lewis, even though I know a lot of people can’t stand his books.

  13. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Most of my life, since I could walk to the library myself, I have read a book a day. Some took two days. I like to re-read a book, though, so usually I have something around I will read.
    Hard to get current books in English here in China. A friend gave me about 2000 ebooks. There are a pile of them I won’t read, usually heavy woo about aliens helping build pyramids and such, listing themselves to be non-fiction. Given a choice, I read mysteries, suspense. I do have many other kinds I will read, and really like Neal Stephenson’s book Cryptonomicon, which I re-read every other year or so, so I don’t “wear it out”.
    Non-fiction, I read a lot of science, history and some historical studies of law, including Medieval witch trials.
    I have come to like ebooks a lot, because I can read in the dark, enlarge print and carry around 2,000 at a time, if I want to. (Usually only have 30 or so.)
    One of my children reads as much as I do and one hates reading anything. Go figure.

  14. chigau (違う) says

    I read LotR frequently.
    I loved Dune and when that movie came out I had an actual desire to find and harm everyone involved.
    and Bakshi, too.

  15. says

    Chigau:

    I loved Dune and when that movie came out I had an actual desire to find and harm everyone involved.
    and Bakshi, too.

    Seconded. I remember when that fucking mess Bakshi made hit the theaters. We drove down the mountain into Riverside to see it. What a fucking mess it was, all the books and characters mashed up, and it looked like it had all been scribbled with crayon.

  16. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I read the Oxford complete Wigglestick when I was 13-14 yo.

    Amid much snickering, I assume? ^.^

  17. says

    I taught myself to read around age 3 upon realizing that the stories were still there when no one was reading to me, and that way I didn’t have to wait until they weren’t busy. When I was a child, we would take weekly family trips to the library. I’d bring a huge canvas tote full of last week’s books to return, and fill it again before I left (my library never had a limit on how many books you could take out at a time.).

  18. kittehserf says

    Caine @19:

    Hahahaha, oh, I know people who would have an absolute fit over that. I like Dune myself, but unless you’re into reading about layers of politics and power dynamics, it could be a slog.

    LOL yes, I thought I was taking a chance with that comment! I just found the people two-dimensional and unlikeable, and didn’t get that far into it before giving up. Just not my thing.

    chigau @24 – I’ve read LotR many times, too, though not for a few years now. I felt the much same way about the films of that as you did about the Dune one, and nothing would get me to sit through them. Only good thing I can think of is that I like the look of the actor playing Bilbo in The Hobbit. Everything else, eurgh.

    Did anyone here read The Silver Brumby series? I devoured them (or at least, the first four) when I was a kid. I was fascinated to find that the “creamies” are probably meant to be very pale palominos. Plus Narnia, the Earthsea trilogy, the Dark is Rising series … loved those books as a kid and still return to them now and then.

  19. says

    Kittehserf:

    Everything else, eurgh.

    Really? Mister and I loved The Lord of the Rings movies Jackson made. They paid attention to the books, and I thought did them justice. I was very wary at first, having suffered through Bakshi’s mess, but ended up quite pleased.

  20. Amphiox says

    The list leaves out one stage though: that moment when you realize that an author you loved has changed so much, declined so much, or simply learn something about who that author really is, that you can’t stomach reading him anymore, and all your formerly fond memories of his older books become irrevocably tainted.

    *ahem* Orson Scott Card *ahem*….

  21. chigau (違う) says

    kittehserf
    I rather enjoyed Jackson’s LotR movies, despite the story butchery, because the were just sooo pretty.
    I saw all three at one year intervals with a very dear (now deceased) friend (also a fan).
    We spent the whole time alternating between “ooooo shiny” and “WTeverlovingF???).

  22. says

    Amphiox:

    The list leaves out one stage though: that moment when you realize that an author you loved has changed so much, declined so much, or simply learn something about who that author really is, that you can’t stomach reading him anymore, and all your formerly fond memories of his older books become irrevocably tainted.

    Yes, there is that. There’s also discovering an author does something you simply can’t abide, so they end up on the ‘do not read’ list. That happened to me recently when I picked up Benedict Jacka’s Verus series, the first one. He’s one of those authors who insists on describing adult women as girls, and that’s gotten so under my skin, I just can’t look past it. “She was a girl in her twenties” aauuugh. You never see an author writing “He was a boy in his twenties.”

  23. says

    Chigau:

    I rather enjoyed Jackson’s LotR movies, despite the story butchery, because the were just sooo pretty.

    I don’t think they butchered the stories. Then again, I had a lot of problems with Tolkien’s writing ability, so…

    We do own the director’s cut/extended version of all the flicks.

  24. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @azkyroth

    Yes, there was snickering. But, jeez, I missed like 80% of the sex jokes, so there wasn’t nearly as much snickering as there could have been. Willie Wigglestick loved him some sex jokes. And I think there’s cross-dressing in every single comedy (help me out here – is there cross-dressing in Winter’s Tale? I can’t remember when it would be…)

    Also? Timon of Athens and Coriolanus both made good anti-insomniacs. I really had to read Coriolanus again as an adult to appreciate it.

  25. kittehserf says

    chigau – “We spent the whole time alternating between “ooooo shiny” and “WTeverlovingF???).”

    LOL that’d be me, with an emphasis on the latter. I’m the sort who doesn’t watch much historical fiction because, if it’s set in a period I know well/care about, I spend the whole time spoiling it for myself and everyone else by doing the THEY DID NOT HAVE THAT THEN THAT STYLE DIDN’T HAPPEN FOR ANOTHER FIFTY YEARS ARE THESE PEOPLE MORONS thing.

    I had very clear ideas of how I thought Aragorn, Theoden and Faramir (I <3 Faramir) looked, and didn't like the film versions at all, or what I read of how they "darkened" Faramir's character. Plus, elves with pointy ears, argh, trite, and Sam Neill as the world's ugliest version of Elrond, one of the most beautiful people in Middle Earth, where's a nopetopus when you need one?

  26. says

    Kittehserf:

    Sam Neill as the world’s ugliest version of Elrond

    ? Hugo Weaving played Elrond. If you’re going to complain, maybe complain about the right thing?

    Hugo Weaving might not be your idea of pretty, but I like him just fine.

  27. chigau (違う) says

    Caine #34
    don’t get me started:
    Tom Bombadil
    Faramir and the Ring
    Elves at Helm’s Deep
    Edoras
    scouring of The Shire
    and so on
    but off topic
    (and couldn’t Strider have had his hair done for his own wedding?)

  28. says

    Chigau, yeah, I know. Absolutely everything simply couldn’t be stuffed into the movies, it took 3 of them to do an over all cover, and there’s considerably more material in the extended versions. I think they did a good job, over all.

    As I said, I had problems with Tolkien’s writing, and I was never as invested in the books as a lot of people are. Mister was seriously invested, and he liked the movies well enough. Whatever floats each person’s boat. For those who are all upset over Jackson’s efforts, I suggest watching Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings.

  29. kittehserf says

    Whoops, my bad! Hugo Weaving indeed. I always get those two mixed up, they seem to look alike to me. ::is embarrassed::

    Baskhi did a LotR too? If it was as bad as what he did to Dune, oh my. (Even as a not-fan of Dune, I wouldn’t watch that film ‘cos I know full well it was a butchery.)

  30. says

    Science fiction for me! Like so many here, I began to read early and voraciously. “Wrinkle in Time” was my first SF book.

    This year I revisited Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” series. What an unusual approach to SF — I miss her. I highly recommend Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mar’s trilogy, Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem” and, of all authors, Elizabeth Moon’s “Reminant Population” for those who haven’t already read them.

  31. chigau (違う) says

    Caine

    For those who are all upset over Jackson’s efforts, I suggest watching Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings.

    Oh my, yes.
    35 years and I still want to punch him.

  32. ambrosia says

    About stage 7: Iain M. Banks. I’ve read all the SF, I’ll go for the mysteries next I guess, with no more Culture novels coming.

    One of my guilty pleasures has been Robert B. Parker’s mysteries. He died a year or two ago, and with the family’s blessing, a couple of other authors have picked up the Spenser and Jesse Stone series. I was not impressed.

  33. kittehserf says

    I loved A Wrinkle in Time, too. It was one of a few kids’ books that really grabbed me as much for the way they painted the setting as for the adventures/stories involved. With US books it was things like Horse in the House and It’s Like This, Cat – with English books it was things like the Dark is Rising series or The White Dragon* or The Old Powder Line (did anyone read that? A steam train as time machine; it was a curious book).

    *Not McCaffrey’s Pern book of the name, but one by Richard Garnett, set in the fen country in winter. There are three dragons: a mummer’s costume, an ice-yacht and a rediscovered chalk drawing.

  34. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    I read Parker, too, while he was alive. It was interesting to see him take the same elements and manage to produce something a bit different. He was of the “don’t age the characters” school of series writing. The ones where the characters do age are more interesting and get to cover different ground. I like that type of series much more.

  35. kittehserf says

    Oh, wait, that animated thing was Bakshi? I think I saw part of that on telly, many years ago.

    … Gah.

  36. says

    Kittehserf:

    Baskhi did a LotR too? If it was as bad as what he did to Dune, oh my.

    An animated LotR, in 1978. Bakshi didn’t have anything to do with Dune (1984), that was David Lynch. Robert Cooper directed the Dune mini-series, and there’s been rumors of a new Dune flick, but it seems Paramont gave up on it.

  37. chigau (違う) says

    kittehserf
    Bakshi was not involved in the Dune movie. That’s all on David Lynch.
    There was a British TV series of Dune that was pretty good.

  38. Jacob Schmidt says

    Oh, wait, that animated thing was Bakshi? I think I saw part of that on telly, many years ago.

    I loved it. No joke, I watched it dozens of times. Thought it was great.

  39. ambrosia says

    Lyn M@46:

    I snickered over that a bit in the last few novels. He was maintaining current context, with main characters who were apparently ageless. I can’t imagine octogenarians Spenser & Hawk striking much fear into the baddies.

  40. unclefrogy says

    it was when I read Frank Herbert’s first book not a after I had read the first two of the Dune books did I understand that he only had one original trick scene still pretty good. I did not start reading much very early wasn’t until high school and I read the Odyssey for a summer school book report and then later read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” that I really came to love reading.

    I was the most struck with sadness when I learned that Travis McGee (John D MacDonald) died.

    I like me some good mysteries and was very surprised to find out that Dashiell Hammett’s writing was way less dated then I expected really a very modern writer who wrote mysteries I recommend Red Harvest.
    I think there are now at least 6 books in the Earth Sea trilogy and the last one I read really puts the cap on it!
    the only other series besides LOTR I have ever re-read are two by William Gibson a spell binding world view.

    uncle frogy
    reading what magic

  41. chigau (違う) says

    Jacob Schmidt #51
    Sit down.
    Do you have a fever?
    Fritz the Cat maybe, Wizards sure, but LotR?

  42. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    I can’t imagine octogenarians Spenser & Hawk striking much fear into the baddies.

    Aaaaabsolutely. He did add changes to the scene, but not to those two. I used to mentally change his war references, from served in Korea to Vietnam to Desert Storm, which didn’t always work.

    Read Dune a long time back, never saw any of the films, so busted on that part of the comment thread. I did think Red Dragon made a pretty good film, as did Silence of the Lambs. But they totally bombed on Hannibal. I wondered how aggravated Harris got over the ending change.

  43. kittehserf says

    chigau @49 – oh, I see; when I read your comment upthread I thought Baskhi went with the Dune movie.

    unclefrogy @53 – yes, I gather there are now six in the Earthsea trilogy, and I’d like to read the last one. I loved the first three but was all WTF with Tehanu, but the synopses I’ve read of The Other Wind are intriguing.

  44. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Uncle frogy

    I agree on the Hammet. He actually worked as a Pinkerton if memory serves, so his stuff has that grit of reality.
    I’m with you about John MacDonald, too. I did like his Travis McGee series.

  45. Jacob Schmidt says

    Chigau

    Nope, LoTR. I liked it.

    I’ve never read the books, mind. It deviates wildly from what I can tell. But still, I don’t remember anything bad in the movie.

  46. says

    Lyn M:

    I’m with you about John MacDonald, too. I did like his Travis McGee series.

    I loved those when I was a teenager. Not long ago, I found a bunch of the McGee books at a thrift store. I brought them home, and re-read one. I was in a full court cringe the whole time, from the sexism. They didn’t age well at all.

  47. CSB says

    I tried to read Dune when I was in high school, couldn’t really get into it.

    Tried again about a month back, and found that I did in fact enjoy it now.

  48. piegasm says

    I was pretty happy with the LotR movies, as book to movie translations go. I felt like they got the story told as best they could with the format. The only thing that really got under my skin was Faramir trying to take the Ring back to Gondor since, in the books, he was deliberately the one person who immediately understood that it couldn’t be used. I accepted Jackson’s explanation that Faramir needed to have a journey to be an interesting character though.

    Unlike the Harry Potter movies which IMO, range from outright awful to maybe-OK-ish-if-you-squint.

  49. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    Caine @ 60

    Yep. Why I said loved. I could see the sexism back when, but as with Parker, tried to mentally re-write the really thick parts. I liked the over-all style and the scene. The “ideas” not so much.
    MacDonald died in 1986 at age 70, so there is not a lot to excuse him. I read the most when I was in my teens and still not fully tuned in to the sexism thing. By the date of his death, I was practicing law, and had little patience for it.

  50. kittehserf says

    Does anyone know Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher or Corrina Chapman books? They’re fun. Both detective books: the first are set in Melbourne in 1928; Fisher’s an uber-wealthy private detective with two adopted daughters, the ultimate butler and Attitude. Greenwood wrote her as essentially a female answer to the male noir detectives, but the books are much lighter in tone. (Anyone know a male ‘tec who can only eat beetroot when wearing a beetroot-coloured shirt?)

    The Chapman books are set here, too, but just a few years ago. Chapman’s a baker in a fictional Melbourne laneway and gets drawn reluctantly into various imysteries. She’s about as different from Fisher as could be: not wealthy, not whip-thin and beautiful, and not self-confident except about her cooking. Both do, however, know that cats rule.

  51. katkinkate says

    I was a fringe-dwelling loner as a child/teen. I joined no book clubs and read whatever I wanted with no detectable peer pressure from anyone. And I still do!

  52. says

    Lyn M @ 56
    But they totally bombed on Hannibal. I wondered how aggravated Harris got over the ending change.
    Yup. I very nearly screamed “You bloody cowards!” in the cinema, when I watched the film back then.

  53. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Lynda is my hugest favorite person I’ve never in ALL possible universes! I actually paid money to buy original drawings from her and enjoy them EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! Several times a day, really!

    Two points on this of course brilliant piece, though. First, an ad promoting natural gas, presumably by fracking, was played, and FUCK THAT!

    Second, a stage is missing, or seems to be. And I’ve met with it several times on sites like this (though, as of yet, not here): the “Such-and-such [classic book] is pretentious bullshit and YOU never read/don’t REALLY like it!” attacks.
    Generally these tiresome genre-purests express their hatred of Joyce or Faulkner or Greek Drama or ALL poetry, etc. It’s water off my imitation-duck hide (I deny their insult as anything but their personal taste; that mine is different; that they probably are missing out; and that writers like, say Joyce or Pound, much less Aeschylus, will be read AND LOVED long after their [perfectly enjoyable and occasionally approaching greatness] favorites will be as popular at Bulwer-Lytton is today, but they are such little ankle-biting weenies about it I’m embarrassed for them!

    Why is half the internet fixed on pissing on others like that, no matter what the topic?

  54. Greta Christina says

    I can think of a couple of other stages:

    Somewhere between #9 and #12: First adult book — not sexy book necessarily, “adult” as in “not written for kids” — that you read and at least somewhat comprehended. (Mine, IIRC, was Slaughterhouse-Five.)

    First movie or TV adaptation of a beloved book that made you furious because they changed or deleted things that you loved. (For me, that was definitely Winnie the Pooh. FUCK YOU, DISNEY!)

    And first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized that it was even better than you remembered, and that there was tons of stuff in it that had totally gone over your head when you were eight or whatever. (“Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass.”) See also: first time you re-read a beloved children’s book as an adult, and realized it really wasn’t all that great. (“Little Women,” anybody?)

  55. Lofty says

    kittehserf @64

    Does anyone know Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher or Corrina Chapman books?

    I’ve got the full set of the Phryne Fisher books. Love them. Haven’t read the other series.
    I also have many of Lindsey Davis’s “Falco” series books set in ancient Rome.
    Oh and the TV series based on the Phryne Fisher books is a pale imitation of the books, and gets worse as the series progresses. Bloody TV producers, wreck everything.

  56. cartomancer says

    Clearly the Mystery of the Scotch Egg is why it has been put in an eggcup on the back cover. One does not put Scotch Eggs in eggcups – they were designed so you can take them with you on picnics and eat them by hand without cutlery. That’s why they are covered in sausage meat and breadcrumbs and deep fried.

    Unless it’s actually a normal egg filled with Scotch whisky. Which is, I will grant you, a lot more mysterious.

    Perhaps I need to read all fifteen of them to learn the truth…

  57. jedibear says

    It’s been a while since I read an actual book, I have to admit. Part of that’s down to unpaid library fees. Part of it’s down to finding so many fascinating (and ever so much more up-to-date) things to read online that I hardly have time.

    I don’t recognize the majority of these stages. I never joined a book club, have always thought that literature snobs were deeply silly, never really got into “sexy” books (I grew up with BBS networks and then the Internet. The appeal was greatly diminished.) I’ve never lied to be cool, about books or anything else, and so on.

    I was briefly an SF snob. I tended to avoid (and had harsh words for) the swords-and-sorcery stuff (which is still deeply silly, but I got over it.) I cried when Asimov died — which I heard about on the radio.

    So some stages I don’t recognize, some I do, and some of mine were different. Some of mine (fall in love with nonfiction dissertations on the history of warfare?) are missing.

    I don’t get why so many people are so mad about Tom Bombadil. There are few characters in LotR more pointless than ol’ Tom. He can be safely left out, and was. In my estimation, his excisement actually improves the piece, which was over-long in any case.

  58. says

    I forgot one series I read at a very early age, probably because, like Travis McGee, they make one cringe with the dated attitude now. My father owned a huge pile of Edgar Rice Burroughs books — Tarzan, Princess of Mars, etc. — all well-worn first editions. I read ‘em all.

    Can’t read them now. It’s not just the sexism — it’s the screaming flaming racism.

  59. Alex says

    @Greta

    “Slaughterhouse-Five”

    Good grief, that was your first adult book? :D
    And now you yourself write books about angry atheists. So it goes…

  60. Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness says

    It is hard to return to a book you read before you had your adult sensibilities established. You read it as an innocent, with no malice or anger. You just liked the story, the scene, the time it said it portrayed. Then all at once, you realized that it is filled with things that upset you now or make you sad or even angry.
    It’s too bad that this early uncritical acceptance plays you false later. All we can do, I feel, is to try to enfold the innocent self and protect it from the anger and burden of the world as it is. We need to try for a present truth, but to hold that enchanted time separate, as innocent and misled. Something we leave behind. It is a time past. It did not develop into something we can stand by today. But we were not evil, most of us, just young and innocent of the thoughtless cruelty that some of those books passed along.
    I often wish it were not so. That the good intentions could carry us past the harm, but this is not true.
    It is late here, and I feel sorry for the past self that tried to understand and got it wrong for a time and may get it wrong again.
    We have to develop, I know you know. We have to face today, I know you know. Reading and talking and facing these things, perhaps we can do that together.
    I am glad to have the chance to talk here and to read and to learn.
    Thanks all of you.

  61. cgilder says

    I tore through the kids fiction series when I was little. Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, and Babysitter’s Club. I have *just* now, as a 32 year old, realized I totally don’t have to be feel guilty about reading trashy romance when I need an escape. Or historical fiction. There are entire shelves at the library for those genres, so obviously I’m not the only one! Maybe when my life isn’t smashed full of swim team and scouts and art class and piano lessons, I’ll have head space for literature that requires brain cell commitment again. Bonus: after so many years, I’ll be able to read all the classics that I loved before with a fresh eye and new perspective.

    It’s pretty awesome watching my 7 year old become obsessed with J FIC mysteries just like I did. He’s also loving the Bone graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. We’re also reading the Little House series as our night time chapter book right now.

  62. kittehserf says

    Lofty @69 – I’m glad I’m not the only person in the country who thinks the Fisher TV series has FAIL written all over it! I lasted twenty minutes into the first episode and am somewhere between cringing and frothing when the ads for the second come up. I love the books, but the series got it all so, so wrong.

    Ember the cat is wonderful.

    I hope Tinker stays in the stories; he’s getting interesting.

    Have you a favourite out of the books? I think mine is Murder in Montparnasse.

    Thread: I forgot two other sets of books I love: Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, and Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey books.

  63. Lofty says

    kittehserf, it’s hard to say if I have a favourite, but Blood and Circuses comes up as particularly memorable. I was sooo pissed off when the TV series left out the elephant which was a big part of the book.

  64. Al Dente says

    Why all the hate towards Ralph Bakshi? His mangling of LOTR did have the Orcs’ song “Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way” which gave me a chuckle. Granted the rest of the movie sucked but that one song was cute.

  65. Socio-gen, something something... says

    I went from 1 to 4 to 20. First series, age 7: the Trixie Belden mysteries. First (and still favorite) adult fiction, age 12: The Grapes of Wrath. First adult novel that gave me nightmares, age 14: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, borrowed from the shelf of an aunt who was reading it for a college lit class.

    I was an early reader, with a natural talent for speed-reading. I literally have no memory of a time when I couldn’t read. My mother says I was about 3.5 years old when I climbed on her lap and read her my storybook. She assumed I’d simply memorized it, until she bought me a new book and jokingly said, “Here, read this one to me.” And I did. After that, I just went through them like candy. When I was 8, I got a special pass from the head librarian at the public library down the street that allowed me to check out as many books as I liked, from any section of the library.

    I read quite a few series when I was young, but it was more about my compulsive need to finish things. I went through the entire Trixie Belden series, then all the Nancy Drew books, then all the Boxcar Children, then all the Hardy Boys — solely because the library had had the books rebound identically, but in different colors. Until Discworld (which I didn’t discover until my thirties), I never met a series that made me think,”I must have more! Write faster!” LOtR was good, but I’ve never felt like re-reading it.

    Right now I’m reading a lot of gender/identity, feminist, and political non-fiction, in addition to textbooks, mixed with some romance novels and the occasional re-read of a Discworld book.

  66. says

    I jumped from six, which was Zane Grey, to twelve, which was Dahlgren, by way of a cousin who was a huge Delaney fan.Then to thirteen, again Dahlgren, because if you have to ask why you didn’t read it right. Then I headed straight to 19 with Xanth.

  67. smhll says

    TIL that quite a lot of people who learned to read when they were 3 grew up to be atheists. (Me, too.)

  68. opposablethumbs says

    Just out of curiosity … anybody else out there think that The Name of the Rose is brilliant (especially the labyrinthine process whereby William of Baskerville reasons his way to the fact that there is no god) but that Foucault’s Pendulum is a load of self-indulgent tosh? Or is that just me not getting it? (very likely)

  69. says

    I love the Patrick O’Brian novels, all twenty of them. The main figure, a naval captain, is an astronomer, mathematician, and navigator. His best friend was a spy, but also a botanist, a surgeon and a member of several scientific societies. This is the best example of how useful it is to have math and science solidly backing whatever profession one follows.

  70. wondering says

    @82 – opposablethumbs

    Just out of curiosity … anybody else out there think that The Name of the Rose is brilliant (especially the labyrinthine process whereby William of Baskerville reasons his way to the fact that there is no god) but that Foucault’s Pendulum is a load of self-indulgent tosh? Or is that just me not getting it? (very likely)

    Well, at least there’s two of us.

  71. David Marjanović says

    I figured out reading when I wasn’t quite 5 yet (and after I already knew all letters, all traffic signs, and so on). I didn’t use a book for that, though; the first word I read was a company’s logo on an envelope. I have no idea which book I read first.

    Never went through the book club stages, or knew there were such things; I wasn’t into talking about books I’d read, I just wanted to read ‘em.

    I was about to say I never got the idea that reading might be a social act to some people. I don’t think there even was a book club at any school I went to; clubs at schools are more of an Anglosphere thing.

    Also? Timon of Athens and Coriolanus both made good anti-insomniacs.

    Once my sister couldn’t sleep; I read to her from Lenin’s Collected Works.

    It worked.

    Phryne

    Toad!?!

    Seriously? Because that’s what it means.

    William of Baskerville reasons his way to the fact that there is no god

    Oh. I’ll really have to read the book, then. All I know is the movie.

  72. David Marjanović says

    This is the best example of how useful it is to have math and science solidly backing whatever profession one follows.

    A fictional example is the best one?

  73. Nick Gotts says

    I think my first complete series must have been Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Revoltingly snobbish and sexist (probably racist too, as her “Noddy” books were, but I don’t remember any non-white characters). However, it did have a kinda sorta trans* central character (George, originally Georgina, but refusing to answer to anything but George or to behave or be treated “like a girl”).

    I actually liked David Lynch’s Dune better than the book, and I think he captured its subliminal fascism well. The scene near the start where the Guild navigator is brought in to negotiate with the emperor is visually wonderful.

    The LotR films, OTOH – ugh, as far as the changes to the plot in the first two are concerned. Faramir doesn’t need to be an interesting character – he’s just there to contrast with Boromir, and provide the occasion for Denethor’s madness. I didn’t watch the last one.

    I don’t get why so many people are so mad about Tom Bombadil. There are few characters in LotR more pointless than ol’ Tom. He can be safely left out, and was. In my estimation, his excisement actually improves the piece, which was over-long in any case.

    I agree. I used to have a “National Lampoon” spoof of LotR, called Bored of the Rings, in which he features as Tim Benzedrine, a spaced-out, superannuated and completely useless hippy, who’s still a more interesting and better-drawn character than the original!

    I think there are now at least 6 books in the Earth Sea trilogy

    Five in the series (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, the Farthest Shore, Tehanu, The Other Wind), although there’s one of short stories Tales of Earthsea, which I haven’t read (the only fiction by Ursula Le Guin I haven’t, I think), and a couple more short stories in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. I read the five to my son over a period of 2-3 years IIRC. The Other Wind, which focuses on death, scared me, but not him!

    Like many here, I got into SF fairly early, although there was a long period when I read very little of it, before returning to it, somewhat more selectively, in the past decade. Never really got into fantasy, with the exception of LotR, Earthsea, and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy – which is far superior to LotR in terms of characterization, has wonderfully inventive names (Sepulchrave, Flay, Swelter, Prunesquallor, Deadyawn, Steerpike…), and is at least equal in terms of set pieces. The first two were adapted for TV in Britain some time ago, and I recently re-watched them with my wife and son; they were very well done.

    An addition to the forms of disappointment already mentioned: when a favoured author falls in love with a tedious character! Happened to Kate Atkinson with Jackson Brodie, and I think has happened to Christopher Brookmyre with Jasmine Sharp.

  74. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I rather enjoyed Jackson’s LotR movies, despite the story butchery, because the were just sooo pretty.

    What story butchery?

  75. says

    When I was around 6 or 7 years old, my favourite book in the whole world was The Rainforest by Armstrong Sperry. It was written in 1947. I checked it out of the library and consumed it, then went back to library and would sit and read it again. I lost count of all the times I read it. It was my first introduction to a rainforest, which fascinated me no end, and also my introduction to ornithology.

    Many years go by. I forgot many of the details of that book, but I never forgot my love for it. About 10 years ago, I tracked down a copy of it. Naturally, I went to re-read it. I set it back down about 7 pages in, the racism made me feel ill.

  76. DonDueed says

    Azkyroth, for me the greatest butchery in the LotR movies was the omission of the Scouring of the Shire. I felt that was the payoff of the whole quest — it showed how deeply changed the hobbits had been by their experiences in the wider world. I would much rather have seen a treatment of that chapter (or was it two) than the maudlin farewell scene at the Grey Havens.

    Book series — as a kid I read a number of the Tom Swift books (not the originals that dated to the forties, but the then-contemporary ’60s version). I enjoyed them but never came close to reading the whole series.

    As an adult, I discovered the great Tony Hillerman mysteries set on the Navajo reservation. His last few were not nearly as good as the early ones, but the whole series is very evocative of the Western desert country and a fascinating culture. I also like the Lord Peter books, including the recent ones that continue the story through and beyond the WWII period.

    An early discovery (yes, I was a self-taught pre-school reader too) was something I found in my elementary school library — “Young Stowaways In Space”. That was an eye opener: a SF book for kids! I recently found a copy and reread it… and it’s pretty awful. Apparently it has been made into a stage play, as a gay-themed spoof. Weird.

  77. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    Taught myself to read before starting school. Read everything. Encyclopedias. Dictionaries. AA Milne. E. Nesbitt. ER Burroughs. Discovered science fiction through TV (Fireball XL-5 anyone? Anyone?) and the bookmobile — first sf book, “War(Battle?) in a Country Garden”. Then, all of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, then Delaney, LeGuin, onwards to Gibson, Stephenson, Butler . . . Read a bunch of the classics, too, and, yes, I LOVE Patrick O’Brian’s naval series . . .

    LOTR? Die, Bakshi, die! (It worked! He’s dead!)

    The LOTR by Jackson. Lot of good stuff there. Some offensively stupid crap as well, which comes from WRITING THE FUCKING SCRIPT WHILE YOU’RE SHOOTING THE DAMN FILM!

    Never went through the stages. Started reading, never gave up. Think the literary or genre snobs are full of shit.

    For me, reading is like food. Sometimes you want hamburgers, sometimes foie gras, sometimes Chinese food, sometimes a good roughage-filled salad, and dessert, must have dessert!

  78. unclefrogy says

    I think that the thing I still like about some of the older mystery series at least the ones that still hold up and are not just too formulaic full of the racism and sexism are the ease of the suspension of disbelief and the surprising ending or the inventive way that the bad guy gets “his just deserts”‘ which is the best part of Travis Mcgee stories.
    Along those lines and for the added dimension of reality are the Walter Mosely Easy Rawlins mysteries I love Mouse!

    as for Tom Bombadil he is a somewhat enigmatic character but hints as to what his identity might be are found in his unfinished tales and The Silmarillion but he just does not have any part in this level of the story so he is easily dropped but the Scouring of the Shire should have been a forth movie which would have contained the scene at the Grey Havens but I think they had a hard enough time getting the movie made at all given how closely they had planed to stay to the books. They had doubts that such a series of movies could be successful and doubts about the lengths.

    everyone is reminding me of things I have read.
    I too have read one book by Jerzy Kosiński found it a very hard read
    another series or author I like a lot is John le Carré the world of grey and unpredictable violence.
    no shinning knights
    uncle frogy

  79. opposablethumbs says

    David M.

    me
    William of Baskerville reasons his way to the fact that there is no god

    Oh. I’ll really have to read the book, then. All I know is the movie.

    I’ve read it a couple of times, but a while ago now.

    I remember thinking, as I read it, OMfsm, I can’t believe it – he’s actually got to the point of logically deducing that there’s no god?!?!? - but I can’t for the life of me remember now exactly where in the book this happens. Just that it’s … somewhere in the middle, in a long mostly-musing-not-action bit, which really doesn’t help, considering how much of that there is and how long the book is!

    It’s one of the very few film adaptations that I felt did a good job (in that the film works in its own right, not as a pale reflection of the original medium); inevitably there are things that just don’t translate into the film (the philosophical/theological cogitations, for one) and there are some things they sweetened for the film (I won’t specify in case you’d rather not have spoilers, but it won’t be a great surprise that the book is more violent and harsher than the film). But I liked both the book and the film.

  80. opposablethumbs says

    @ wondering #85

    Nice to know I’m not the only one! :-D

    I was so disappointed with it; all the wonderful, painstaking, scrupulously detailed scholarship that actually fits and matters and intrigues and informs you, and moves the book forwards in NotR … and then all that tedious mish-mash of arbitrary name-dropping masquerading as scholarship in F’s P … what happened????? Either I missed the point by a mile (always likely, of course!) or there really was no point – just a very erudite person writing a pot-boiler :-(

  81. says

    I like to read the not easily categorized book here and there, too. One of my favourites is The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture by Jonathan Sawday. Absolutely fascinating.

  82. Akira MacKenzie says

    Another Dune fan who will never forgive David Lynch for that celluloid abomination he created. He had the “look” right, but he just didn’t grasp the material. As cheap as it was, the low-budget SciFi Channel mini-series was more respectful to the source.

    As for the books themselves, the first one is a masterpiece, the second was OK, he third was “Meh,” and the fourth… Sigh, God Emperor of Dune was where Herbert lost me, especially with his creepy theories about homosexuality. They didn’t reach Orson Scott Card levels of homophobia, but they were wince-inducing. After reading the synopsis of the next novels, the series looks to take a turn to the really weird. To be honest, Dune didn’t really need a sequel. Herbert just should have quit when he was ahead.

  83. nich says

    Speaking of disgusting racism, I read the Hardy Boys when I was a kid, then snagged some originals off e-Bay as an adult after reading how oh-so-superior they were to the “politically correct” re-writes. Well, I read them alright. Every non-WASP was straight from central casting: Mexicans speak English like the bandits in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, African-Americans like Gone with the Wind rejects, and the way Chinese were depicted was especially disgusting: “Me velly solly, Flank Haldy!” Not to mention the damn sexism! If anybody tries to tell you how much better the originals are, they probably vote Republican.

  84. John Phillips, FCD says

    I’m another who went straight to 20. I got so quickly bored with ‘kiddy’ books that my parents taught me to read properly by the time I was three, I think they figured, correctly as it turned out, that if I could read anything I wanted when I wanted it would give me hours of pleasure and keep me out of their hair :).

    My father had tea chests full to the brim with old books in an empty room used only for storage because it was freezing in there, but I would wrap up in a blanket and sit in a mini rocking chair he had made me and lose myself for hours. He had a 2 volume Oxford English Dictionary and an old (1911 IIRC) battered 20 volume Encyclopedia Britannica that he showed me how to use and then I was let loose. The only rule was treat the books with respect. I was also allowed free rein of his own engineering and woodwork books.

    The first ‘proper’ book I can remember reading iss Sir Walter Scott’s Robin Hood when about four and then 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and I have been in love with SF ever since. I then worked through my father’s tea chests full of the classics, Dickens etc, lots of books on Greek myths which is probably why I like Fantasy, lots more SF by Wells, John Wyndham etc along with the usual children’s classics, Enid Blyton and the like, mixed in.

    By the time I left home for secondary school I had read just about everything in my father’s tea chests. If my family were ever stuck for a present, they would just ask me what book I liked next. Plus, luckily, our local library was only a twenty minute walk from home and I was allowed to get a proper ticket, rather than a child’s, when I was 7. That library was like an Aladdin’s cave full of goodies and there were times I would get lost for hours just reading the cover blurbs while trying to pick my next 8 books.

    That love of books was instilled in all of us and even today my brother and sister like nothing more than a good book to relax with. Though I have less time to read now for the pure pleasure of just reading and getting lost in a story than I like.

  85. says

    John Phillips, I had to wait until I was 9 to get access to the main library in Santa Ana, Ca. I had been agitating for access for two years, though. :D I was given special dispensation. When I first got loose in the main library, it was the first time I had a sense of a holy place, and I was being raised Catholic.

  86. John Phillips, FCD says

    Caine, Fleur du mal, libraries, museums and the world’s wildernesses are the closest to what I have ever considered holy or sacred places. Even today, though for a number of reasons I don’t visit my local library very often, when I do, after entering the main room I still tend to stand still for a moment, look around at all the shelves and think, mmmm, books /homer.

  87. birgerjohansson says

    In Sweden we had Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys translations. Holy Sh*t they are crappy.
    recommended: The Face in the Frost” by Bellairs.