I commented on “Selective Memory” over at Wasteland and Sky, and decided to repost it here. First, an excerpt:
Then I got to college and read a pile of the most hateful stories you could ever thumb through. Two in particular made me give up entirely. They were called Generals Die in Bed and Catcher in the Rye, and they were considered classics. If you’ve ever read them you have my condolences.
Suffice to say, I was done. This was the best of the best? This was all the literary world had to offer? I went back to my comics and manga, and largely left reading books behind. I didn’t know any readers. I didn’t know any writers. I didn’t know anybody who really cared about stories at all. So as far as I could tell, this was how it always was and always would be.
My bedroom in first grade also doubled as the book room with one wall occupied en toto by shelves, and my dads desk. I was reading Narnia before first grade, and Red Planet before second. I vaguely remember some Disney picture books about the world that included shots of models from the world of tomorrow style future habitats and cars in kindergarten.
So, I grew up with my parents bookshelf, ending up reading everything from Bircher – style conspiracy theories – which I later discovered had more truth than I dismissed at the time or my time wandering through liberal circles, to the SF classics, even some truly golden age stuff, my dads westerns and L’Amour books, even Taylor fucking Caldwell (can you say voracious reader?). The library delivered even more- Tom Swift, the Oz books, all the Farley “Stallion” books, “aA Connecticut Yankee”, etc…..
I’d finished 1984 and Animal Farm in middle school. And Heinlein’s “Friday” (I loved the cover…. go figure, teenage boy). Plus Pournelle, etc. – aside – the “there will be war” stories, Pournelle’s Falkenberg/codominium books, and his collabs with Niven (Oath of Fealty, Mote in Gods Eye especially) are fucking awesome.
I’d already run into a few books that made me feel dirty – the Long Walk by “Bachman” (aka King) – and some stuff that was clunky but, hey, voracious reader, I finished it. But it wasn’t until that stupid fucking lottery story in high school, or the Lord of the Flies, or the Catcher in the Rye, that I found a book so disgusting I could not finish it.
This coming from someone who managed to wade through and enjoy drek like Battlefield Earth twice in high school, though couldn’t stomach his other crap, or dianetics.
I’ve heard it only half-jokingly said that English teachers try to beat a love of history and reading out of us. Given what even the apparently well meaning hand to us as examples of “meaning” and literature?
I can’t remember most of what I read in the 90’s – Wheel of time bored me to tears (couldn’t finish it even underway on a sub), Goodkind also wore on with the blatant messaging, but I do remember stumbling into John Ringo, and Baen books. And then Castalia. Outside of a couple standouts like Card, until later discovering Baen, John Wright after he signed on with Castalia, and the puppy crew, I don’t recall any of it. It’s all gray fucking goo.
Thank God for Baen, Thank God for Larry, Thank God for the Puppies, and Thank god for indy and Castalia.
And thank you too Jeffro, for showing me how much more of Appendix N I had yet to read.