Wednesday, 24 November 2010

It seems that books are great even when they're rubbish

Validation for NaNoWriMo goes live at midnight.  After checking up on the procedure I ended up on the forums, which are generally quite fun.  I'm going to write properly about my reactions to the whole NaNoWriMo thing at some point in the future, but I've been annoyed by anti-NaNoWriMo press which alleges that NaNoWriMoers are not readers.  So I was looking in particular at the posts which mention reading.  If you register you are e-mailed occasional pep talks by authors to keep you going, and today one was sent out from Lemony Snicket which mentioned briefly the idea of books that change you.  This has led to a post which I have found oddly moving.  It backs up what I mentioned in the last post, about how people sometimes seem more like real people on the internet than if you bumped into them in real life.  It's not full of people extolling the virtues of Dostoyevsky, far from it.  Most of the works mentioned are not especially good.  But the stories of how Harry Potter got kids reading and they've never stopped -- quite a lot of NaNoWriMos are only teenagers -- or even how the Twilight books have made a real difference to their lives, are actually strangely moving.  So many kids having a rough time learn to accept themselves because it's the message they picked up in a book.  And Tamora Pierce!  I loved Tamora Pierce as a teenager, though I always felt they were a little young for me.  Terry Pratchett, the Lord of the Rings, and Narnia also get mentioned a lot.  The Narnia books were the ones which got me reading as a kid, and were the first proper things I read alone.  I vividly remember crying my eyes out when Aslan died as about the first time I ever felt so completely part of a book.  When I started reading again it said that Susan and Lucy had cried so much they couldn't cry any more, and I thought, that's me!

Anyway, that's a bit off topic.  I'm not sure I'd claim that this ability to mean so much is unique to books.  I'm not sure I'd claim anything in particular, just that this post suggests something about being human which moves me.  Remark how many of the books mentioned are Sci-Fi or Fantasy, even the high-brow ones if you count things like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Kafka.


  1. Excellent news re the words -- well done!! I also liked Tamora Pierce; and probably read her at the right age, which was nice (though the Alanna ones start at the right level for pre-teens but there's probably Too Much Sex in the later books of the series, which thankfully I didn't get hold of until the age at which I was no longer put off by this.) I was very keen on Narnia, but my absolute favourites were Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series.

  2. I remember the Dark is Rising series! They were really good. In fact I think they might even bear rereading. Also T. H. White's Sword in the Stone books. Given that my nephew is called Arthur, it raises two questions 1) at what age can I give him the books for his birthday and 2) will he be upset if I call him Wart?

  3. Ah, yes, I loved T.H. White! Yes, do re-read Cooper -- I have copies here if you want to borrow them. And one of the wonderful things about the Susan Cooper series is how she managed to get so many covert literary and historical references into the books....the second of the series, the Christmas one, is, I think, the best.

    I had absurdly old-fashioned literary tastes as a child and an penchant for rustic historicism and retellings of Arthurian myths with all the sex and scandal taken out (hence the appeal of White). One of my favourites was (*cough*) Marryat's _Children of the New Forest_. I'm glad my Republicanism eventually survived the romance of outwitting the evil Roundheads :p

  4. I loved the Children of the New Forest! I loved it when the second son, Toby or whatever his name was, managed to domesticate cattle from scratch. (There was clearly a reason why the aristocrats were on top...) Luckily there were Civil War romances to even things up a bit. It was usually a sexy cavalier man defrosting a tight-laced puritan girl, but sometimes the wild royalist lady unleashed the hidden passion of the sternly handsome New Model Army captain. I really want to write one of those.