Reading Dangerously

My husband was talking to me this morning about the snake called fer-de-lance. Please don’t ask why.  If you’re going to ask why my family talks about crazy things, we’ll be here all day.  Why, older boy yesterday was talking to us about the kidneys.  Something – nephrons, I think – caused me to say “weren’t those guards in ancient Egypt?” And from there we went off on an Egyptology tangent, though briefly and amusingly we also entertained the idea of Egyptians in people’s kidneys.  (No, you can’t kill us for being crazy.  At least I don’t think you can.)

Anyway, from Fer-de-Lance we went to Rex Stout.  I told Dan that not only was Fer-de-Lance the first Rex Stout I read, it was the first mystery I read, about a year after I started reading Science Fiction.  This is strange, since dad’s bookshelves were FULL of mystery books, this being his favorite form of reading.  (Though until recently he also read “great books” i.e. those that received much acclaim, until he decided they received acclaim on the basis of politics, not fact.)

The thing is that dad had told me that mysteries were not “appropriate” and “would likely give you nightmares.”  Now, let’s pause for a moment in wonder at a father’s understanding of his daughter’s mind.  By 12, when I started reading mystery, I’d already read a lot of science fiction, most of it dystopic 70s stuff, soaked in sex and violence (and don’t tell me “but most 70s stuff wasn’t like that.”  I believe you, of course, but you have to remember this is what European literary agents chose to buy and publish in Portuguese, and in the seventies – and still – high culture in Europe is all Sturm und Drang.  As I’ve said before, it’s been stuck in the goth teen mood since at least World War I, reveling in how terrible things are an how there is no hope.)  Worse, he knew – had to know, he’d given me the books – that I spent the summer I was eight reading (among other things) Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four.  And we won’t mention people like Dumas, or the wonderful collection of – leather bound, with the GORIEST lithographs – Captain Morgan’s adventures.  However, he didn’t want me to read mysteries, because… they had murder in them, and this might bring me nightmares.

Remember what I was talking about?  How parents and children are opaque to each other?  Well, from that end, my being a sensible kid (as sensible as kids get – at least intellectually.  We won’t discuss my emotional development, which seemed even slower when contrasted with my intellectual development) it made no sense at all that dad put those books off limits because they centered on murder so…

Well, the Portuguese culture at the time at least had a really hard time distinguishing between mystery and horror. You can see why, if you read some of the goriest procedurals of the time, and compare them to what I call “blood and guts horror” of the same period.  And someone in the publishing line (yes, there was only one.  We also had only two TV channels, shut up.  There was also only once SF line, it was called Argonaut.  When I had to establish my own press, I desperately wanted to call it that, but Alas, there was already an Argonaut press) was called vampire.  No, seriously.  And the emblem on the back of the covers was a bat.

I did – still do to an extent – have problems with most supernatural horror.  (Not romance disguised as supernatural horror.)  I tend to find that it does give me nightmares.  So, since daddy knew me, these must be supernatural horror.

Here I must explain the weird system of publishing in Portugal, when I was a kid.  Each of these lines put out a translation a month.  That was it.  They also had a limited print run.  If you didn’t grab it the first two weeks of the month and it turned out popular, your best bet was to find it later in one of those postcard-type-racks at some forgotten beach resort (where I cleaned out on Heinlein at 14.  Yes, the covers were faded.  Like I cared.)  They didn’t do reprints.  (It’s a very small market.)  The print run was also usually on the tight side.

Now, if you read knock off regency romances (most of them written by the yard by Portuguese authors using English pen names) or Westerns (ditto) you got four a month and you were spoiled for choice.  But I didn’t.  My brother had told me Romance was the opium of womanhood (more on that later) and the Westerns were so bad even I could see the mistakes – I mean, like entirely made up western states.

So, inevitably there came the Summer afternoon where I was bored out of my gourd, and I’d read all the non fiction and all the old stuff, and all the science fiction in the house, and also in the attic, and also in grandma’s storage spaces.  I was desperate.  And I looked up at the bookcase in the living room with its row upon row of vampire books.

And I found Fer-de-Lance.  I had no idea it was a snake.  I thought “Iron in the lance?  How odd.”

So with much trepidation, I brought it down, curled up on the armchair (back then I tended to curl up like a cat) and started reading.  I kept waiting for the supernatural horror to come in.  It never did.  What did happen is that by three quarters in I was hooked.  I spent a glorious summer catching up on all the mysteries, including Agatha Christie and found some permanent friends.

So – to what purpose this?  First, get out of your comfort zone in reading.  You never know.  Yes, I know you have a TBR pile that dwarfs the Taj Mahal – who doesn’t? – but a change of pace will make you appreciate all of it more.

Case in point, I’d never read Romance until about four years ago, when I took a chance. And even though my taste in Romance is limited (I don’t need to know what went where.  No, really.) I’ve found some pretty enjoyable reads and learned some techniques I ported into my other work.

That vampire bat on the cover might never appear inside.  Give it a chance.

Second – if you’re directing kids’ reading: other than outright porno (and why in heck would you have that — where they could reach, anyway?) don’t limit them.  You can say “I think you’re a little too young to fully appreciate that” (be aware, though that this will ENSURE they read it then, so use it advisedly.)  And you can say “I didn’t think that would be your thing.”  But mostly, make books available and let them find their own path.

Weirdly, though they might share some tastes with you, it will not coincide.  Not precisely.  But the greatest reward of all, and how you know you’ve done your job, is when they come to you, at fourteen or fifteen or twenty and say, “Hey, I found this book, and it’s great, and I thought you’d like it.”

And it’s true.

320 thoughts on “Reading Dangerously

  1. Reading a wide variety is always wise for a writer. I recommend history and in particular primary source.

    1. There is also a benefit to reading contemporary novels (i.e., novels contemporary to the historical period) for indications of how expressed values played out in that time. One is struck, for example, in reading Fer-de-Lance, on the casual racism expressed by the narrator. To modern ears it is a shocking reminder of how prudish we have become about such things … and the fact that it has not only existed for most of human history but has rarely limited itself to skin hues.

  2. “That vampire bag on the cover might never appear inside. Give it a chance.”
    I’ve ran into this with my wife. Why must SF&F illustrators default to chicks in chainmail motifs for their covers, even when it has NOTHING to do with the storyline? Or, for that matter, any of the characters!

    On another tack, I’ve often been tempted, when asked what I do, to reply “I write Porn.” Usually to someone who would never read anything I’d write or read, regardless of genre. Just for the shock value.
    I must be ODD.

    (BTW, for the record, I don’t read – or write! – Porn. Although I understand the money is good and the storylines very easy and predictable.)

    1. I have often wondered about the practicality of chainmail bikinis. They don’t look as if they provide much protection, support or comfort. Fighting nude seems more sensible, at least if you can’t get skintight leather body suit. And I can’t help but think chainmail bras would pinch (I suppose there’s a lining?)

      Instapundit recently had a link on the issue of armor with exaggerated breast plates — and the likelihood they would channel sword blows into the sternum rather than deflecting the force away from the body.

      One might almost suspect illustrators of preferring to draw women in provocative poses over more practical considerations.

        1. And never mind riding a HORSE in one. Given that you can get chafed riding (bad enough to bleed) from the seams of *cloth* breeches, I don’t even wanna think about it.

          1. Poul Anderson comment on the “problem” of a man wearing only a kilt trying to ride a horse. [Evil Grin]

            1. That would be probably be why trews were invented…. Although you could always rewrap your kilt as trews, one supposes, you’d be better off either using a spare shirt, or inventing trews.

              1. My understanding is that the Greeks and Romans picked up trousers from the various horse peoples. Other ancient sedentary/purely chariot peoples seem to have avoided trousers until they picked up horseriding.

              2. I suppose one alternative to trousers would be to ride sidesaddle. But you just can’t couch your lance as securely when riding sidesaddle.

                1. You can’t couch it well, and you usually have both hands full – one with the reins and the other with your riding stick/crop, which you use to cue in place of using your leg. Plus the fabric of a riding habit’s skirt makes a great handle for someone wanting to pull you down from the horse. And it can be very difficult to get clear of a falling horse, depending on what you are wearing and what kind of horns are on the saddle and which way the horse is tipping.

                2. Trousers predated the stirrup.

                  Anyway, the sidesaddle was not invented until the Middle Ages, and for centuries after that, women still rode astride unless they were specifically riding to show off and wanted their skirts to look as impressive as they could. (Which is why it was invented in the first place, for a queen.) It was not until Victorian times that they invented a sidesaddle where you could ride as securely as astride.

        2. I have nightmares from Princess Leia in Empire Stikes Back. the metal bikini hides her impressive boobs, and reveals to the world how anorexic Carrie Fisher was at the time from drugs.

      1. There are a couple of cosplayers on Facebook who could tell you what they’re like – they both did chainmail bikinis to play Red Sonja at comic book conventions.

      2. There is a British guy on youtube doing three minute lectures on arms, armor and associated stuff, generally wearing a cricket sweater. He does have one where he is talking and showing off his hoplite leather cuirass. He finished off about it, after naming the parts and talking about wearing it for a couple extended re-enactments, by saying the only real drawback was nipple chafe since it was too stiff to turn when you do.

        1. When he made “Excaliber,” John Borman discovered that much of the armor in European museums was fake, made by a man in an alley shop in London. That man made all the great armor in the movie, in aluminum.

          1. When visiting museums in the tidewater area of Virginia I learned that old armor pieces, even though made of metal, are now quite fragile. There are many historical items where a museum prefers to keep the real item in their possession under lock and key in climate controlled conditions in order to maintain the piece. In which case the armor that is on display should be openly labeled as reproductions.

            And, as a side bar, old fabric is particularly a problem. The massive Edo exhibit at the Smithsonian changed out the kimono that were on display on a regular basis to minimize fabric’s damage by the exposure to light. At Williamsburg the textile displays at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museums are kept under special lighting and only available for limited hours.

      3. Chainmail bikinis are useless, but IIRC all chainmail was worn over another fairly thick garment.

        In fact the “anatomically correct” female (literally) breast plate would be dangerous to the point of lethal.

        OTOH cutting modern body armor to a more female friendly shape does help.

        1. Chainmail was worn over a thick cotton batting under-armor that would absorb crushing effect of a blow. It is called a gambeson.

          So, what you are suggesting is that under the chainmail bikini one should wear a “gambethong”?

    2. “I write Porn.”

      What a wonderful answer. It should shut most people up on the spot. Just curious, though. What do you do when they ask you for some of your work? (since below you wrote “I don’t read – or write! – Porn.”)

      What I write has to be classified as ‘torturing readers.’ For their own good, of course. At least that’s the intention.

      1. “What I write has to be classified as ‘torturing readers.’”

        I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.

  3. > And don’t tell me “but most 70s stuff wasn’t like that.”

    Actually, that ** IS ** my impression of 70s SF.

    I was born in ’71 and started reading adult SF around ’78. At that tender age I didn’t understand politics, culture, or anything, and was just CONFUSED about how some science fiction I found in the adult section of the county library had straight-forward action (I later realized that this was 1930s and 40s pulp), some had rah-rah American space exploration (later realized this was 50s triumphant Heinleinest stuff), some had weird a weird experimental feel where nothing seemed to happen except yucky adult sex (later learned that this was Michael Moorcock and the British New Wave from the 1960s) and some was depressing as hell, because we were all going to die, die, DIE! (1970’s dystopic stuff).

    It’s been funny growing older and learning about the world, and realizing that all this stuff that I once accepted as just objectively “science fiction” is really part of an ongoing culture war. Asimov and the Futurians were all communists who wanted a world government, the end of religion, etc. Heinlein and his brigade were American exceptionalists. Moorcock etc. decadent post-modernists decrying the very concept of rationalist and narrative.

    …and on and on and on.

    Movies like “Blade” tell us that there’s a secret war happening right under our noses. The movies are right…but the secret war isn’t about vampires. It’s about the human conception of the good life: freedom versus servility.

    …and the combatants in the Secret War are writers. (Go Team Baen!)

    1. I started buying my own science fiction in the mid-’70s. I probably wouldn’t have, if the dystopic stuff was what I saw of the genre.

      Thing is, they were reprinting a lot of stuff from ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s then, and that’s what I bought. When I look at the books and movies from that time–it was as if I had my private Island That Time Forgot, with the books of another era. I knew the political situation was bad and getting worse; I didn’t realize that the current literature was.

      1. Jo Walton’s Among Others is very useful for examining this, particularly if you have a timeline of sf publication years in your head, thanks to luck with libraries and used bookstores. I got the audiobook a long time back and am gradually “reading” it, since it’s not the kind of book you want to listen to at bedtime. (Especially since the main character’s taste in books is sometimes radically different from my own. Dear Lord, the crud that the main character likes, right next to stuff that is legitimately good! It makes me feel better about some of my own reading as a kid.) But it’s a fair portrayal of the variety of books available in the late Seventies to the voracious bookhunter.

    2. There’s an analogy in the vampire movies that I doubt the maker have seen: those who see everyone else as prey/food/subjects vs those who don’t.

      1. Which explains why vampires have become “sexy”. The Powers That Wannabe desperately want that kind of power so of *course* those that have it must be sexy.

        1. I have recently been pondering whether the present lure of the vampire is based on their power to dominate the wills of humans as an expression of modern women’s fear of becoming subordinate in marriage. I don’t recall ever hearing a man express hostility toward marriage in terms of “losing himself” but it seems somewhat common amongst feminists (admittedly a perverse and non-representative sample.)

          Of course, those emotions which society represses acquire the lure of The Forbidden, building a fantasy life around experiencing (within safe boundaries) that which we are pushed to reject. 50 Shades of Red, as it were.

          1. Remember that just because they didn’t call them vampires didn’t mean that they didn’t exist earlier. The — ehem — Good Folk and demon lovers held this territory before the vampires moved in (leaving their old territory for zombies to move into.)

          2. I think there’s also the way that women want a guy who’s stronger, but we’re told that men and women are the same, so… boom: super-strong, super smart, super fast supernatural lovers.

            1. There’s another aspect to these supernatural lovers (either Vampires or Werewolves). Very often in Paranormal Romance, these beings *need* the human females to become their one-and-only mates. In an age where “liberated women” whine about men not wanting to commit themselves in a permanent relationship with the “liberated women”, these supernatural lovers will commit themselves to a permanent relationship if only the human females accept the supernatural lovers.

              1. How far from tradition, where the Vampire and Werewolf were not exclusive, but took multiple prey — kind of like cads who carried extra threats towards the innocent.

              2. Oooh, and like the analysis of “Beauty and the Beast” that points to it being popular because the Beast needs Beauty– the supernatural lovers also usually really, really, REALLY need the gal.

                1. Whereas I am reliably informed that in real life, there’s no quicker way to turn off a woman’s desire for a man than for said man to be really, really, REALLY needy.

                    1. Hmm, yes, good point.

                      Needing: “My life would be so much poorer without you in it, dear.”

                      Needy: “I couldn’t live without you! Please don’t leave me!”

                      Is that about the size of it?

                    2. An example of needy: You didn’t say hello to me when I said hello. Look at me! Look at me! You aren’t looking at me (and yes, there is someone in our complex that does this to me and others all the time– thankfully I have a different type of man in my life)

                    3. I am but a helpless infant in a man’s body, mother me and bed me?

                      Yuck. How unromantic.

                    4. OTOH, there is no man so desired as one who truly knows how to knead a woman.

                      People, people who knead people, …

                    5. Can we throw things at him?

                      On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 10:00 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > RES commented: “OTOH, there is no man so desired as one who truly knows > how to knead a woman. People, people who knead people, …” >

                    6. –are the luckiest people in the world–
                      ummmm ummm um um um
                      You know I won’t be able to get that tune out of my head now–???

                    7. I’m sorry — I hate that tune, too. Sadly, I know of nothing for eliminating an ear worm except another, worse one. But try as I might, I cannot find anything worse. I guess it’s a small world, after all.

                    8. But there are songs that never end. Yes, they go on and on, my friend.

                      On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 10:21 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > RES commented: “I’m sorry — I hate that tune, too. Sadly, I know of > nothing for eliminating an ear worm except another, worse one. But try as I > might, I cannot find anything worse. I guess it’s a small world, after all.” >

                    9. I trust this adaptation of the Alfred Noyes poem will alleviate your ear worm:

                      There are some other excellent versions of this poem on Youtube, I encourage searching on the poem’s title.

                    10. Well if you’re going there, I have to throw out our family’s preferred earworm, from the ancient days of the web (unfortunately YouTube won’t loop endlessly like the original):

                  1. Yeah… second guy I dated wanted a mommy.

                    On the upside, I managed to make only two mistakes before finding TrueBlue!

              3. The Werewolves who need a permanent mate for life always make me choke. I mean have these authors ever watched a male dog?

                1. That’s why they’re not weredogs.
                  Wolves are much more monogamous. Indeed, in the wild a pack appears to consist of a couple and their cubs, until the cubs hive off to form their own packs.

                  1. Well, Werewolves (like Vampires) in Fiction are very far from the way they are in legends/old stories let alone any comparison to wolves. [Grin]

                    By the way, Jim Butcher does a good job when he introduced Werewolves in the Dresden series of going over the different types of “folklore” Werewolves.

                  2. Since I happen to live in wolf country I will say this is only partially true, many packs do consist of an adult pair and their young (until they are a couple years old) but many consist of multiple older adults also (the largest packs I have personally seen evidence of consisted of sixteen and eighteen wolves, mostly adults). They are also not nearly as territorial as the ‘wolf experts’ let on, multiple packs may coexist perfectly well at times in the same territory (other packs will fight viciously, I believe it depends on the wolves in each individual pack) and two packs may even join together and hunt together for a few days before splitting up and returning to their original territory. Also the ‘biologists’ who claim that only the Alpha female is bred and raises pups in a pack are flat lying wolf activists, if a female is in heat any male who gets the chance is going to breed it, regardless of whether it is the Alpha or the Omega bitch.

            2. Wait a minute … women want that?

              Sheesh, why is it that no one tells me these things until its too late?

              1. *grin*
                If we tell, where’s the fun in that?

                For added joy, what a woman considers “stronger” depends heavily on the woman– and asking her may not tell you anything until it’s too late to be in the running. (My dear husband put up with me pestering him– including faking that poking him in the ribs was horribly annoying– for months before asking me on a date. Willingness to put up with stuff I wouldn’t is a strength that a romance novel is unlikely to cover.)

                1. My wife claims that I’m only around because I’m the only one in the house that can read a map.

                    1. I had a fear that Google Navigator was going to mean I got tossed out.

                      Hahaaaahaaa.

                      Silly me. She can’t work it either.

                    2. Of course not. I can’t either. Robert and I need Dan and Marshall in the house. they’re the only ones with the magic of directions. Robert and I in the car is the beginning of a horrifying adventure that will be hilarious in retrospect.

                    3. You live in Colorado Springs, how can you get lost? The mountains are to the west, and based on the size and angle of Pikes Peak you can place yourself in the right area of town. Plus, eventually every road runs into every other one. It’s impossible to get lost. Unless you’re looking for something off Templeton Gap. In that case may G-d have mercy on your soul.

                    4. Er… I can’t find the mountains. And I CAN get lost in my own living room. And the last time Robert and I went to the vet, we ended up in Denver. We still don’t know how.

                    5. Mountains. Big rocky things. Covered (mostly) in trees. Sun goes behind them in the evening. One of them has a light on it. You know, MOUNTAINS.

                      Maybe you should have a note in your car “If you find yourself in Castle Rock without meaning to go to Denver, TURN AROUND.”

                    6. “You live in Colorado Springs, how can you get lost? The mountains are to the west, and based on the size and angle of Pikes Peak you can place yourself in the right area of town. ”

                      I worked with a woman who KNEW that Moscow Mt. was north, unfortunately she had ZERO sense of direction, and after living on the north side of it for years, (the office was on the south side, I live southeast of it, etc.) she could never figure out that Moscow Mt. was only north when you were south of it. If I told her to go north she looked around til she could spot Moscow Mt. and headed that way… because Moscow Mt. was always north, regardless of the fact that we might be working due east of it that day.

                    7. For years I always had one more freckle on the left hand than the right, but they slowly faded and are no longer there. Then The Daughter, in a fit of frustration, taught me the following trick. Hold yours hands up before you so you are looking at the back of your hand with the index finger pointing to the sky and the thumb parallel to the ground. The one that makes an uppercase letter L is the left one.

                      Basically: West is the direction to look so you can see sun sets, if you are headed north it is to your left, if you are headed south it is to your right, and if you are headed east to is at your back. (If you want to do East, reverse it, starting with where you look for a sunrise.) 😉

                    8. I mastered the art of telling my right hand from my left in third grade, when we learned the recorder. I would put my hands as if to play it, and the one on top was the left.

                      Somewhat afterward, I would start “writing” and the hand that moved as if grasping the pen was my right. (There were times earlier when I would start writing and wonder what happened to my handwriting. I didn’t realize I had taken the pencil in my left hand.)

                    9. My uncle taught me to box when I was about five, I think. From then on, the way I determined “left” was that it was the defensive hand, and the right hand was the power hand. I still figure things out that way. It’s stood me in good stead for 60+ years.

                      I never trusted “mountains are on the west”. There aren’t any ‘mountains’ in Louisiana. In New Mexico, the mountains closest to us were on the east, and the ones farthest away were on the west. With all our moving around we had to learn different tricks. I can’t even tell you what I use, but I have a pretty good sense of direction. That is, unless I get confused… We won’t talk about getting lost in Rome, or the problems of driving in Paris, or all the other times I’ve taken my family on “interesting” trips. Some of them led to us seeing things the average person never sees, but a few of them have been downright scary.

                    10. I can see getting lost in Rome or Paris, I have a Very good sense of direction…UNLESS you drop me in a city, then my sense of direction is about as accurate as compass in a tin-can.

                2. Yes– my hubby needed to be smart enough and strong enough to know when I am manipulating a situation. 😉 Shadow behind the throne and all that jazz… It does help that he has a strong personality too. So yes– strong depends on the woman.

        2. The first sexy vampire I encountered was in Louis Jourdan’s 1977 BBC Count Dracula. But Jourdan’s Dracula certainly was no teen heart throb, metro-sexual or angst filled man of inner conflict. He was a smoldering seducer, both threatening and enchanting at the same time.

        3. Well, when you conceive of someone being a parasite as an acceptable, nay desirable, lifestyle choice, vampires make sense.

  4. Although, if someone were a very sloppy typist and bad speller, I suppose they might consider this an Anne McCaffery reference.

  5. Seriously when you wrote fer-de-lance, I know the snake– one of the dangers of living in Panama. Thankfully I didn’t run across any in the wild (or the city), but I have heard the stories. Fifteen minutes from bite to death and no antidote. Plus a very terrible death–

    1. When I was in Panama in 67-68, they were a problem for people in base housing. The Security Police would get a call about once a month to come get one. They were especially bad during the rainy season. We even had a few in the barracks. Luckily, they are really shy and will slither away from any attack. We used to shoo them out with brooms. Our houseboy died from a fer-de-lance bite the year after I left.

  6. So do I – especially the primary sources. What really-o-truly-o really happened is often so much more bizarre and unlikely than anything you could have made up. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas for plot turns and characters, just from reading old letters and memoirs.
    I think I probably had it luckier when it came to reading material in-house. At one point, when I must have been about eight or nine, I went through my parent’s bookshelves and looked at every book there was, and read the first couple of chapters. If I liked it, and it was interesting, then I read the whole thing. This included some of my father’s college biology and anthropology textbooks – hey, they had the neatest pictures of bones and skeletons and things! I read all of Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” – even though the plot was over my head at the time by several miles. I read a chapter or two of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” – but fortunately those chapters were BORING! and I put it back on the shelf. Yes, my mother still says I was a rather wierd child.

    1. I read a lot of original sources, but for day to day life, they often suck — at least the official ones, because there’s the things they won’t TELL YOU because “everyone knows” — victory gardens totally evaded me, till I stumbled on — of all things — Disney comics of that era.

      1. That’s why you want to go for letters and diaries and things. There’s an art to reading primary sources and what the authors were thinking — and before I type for half an hour, I will just point to this.

    2. My own personal reason for advocating history especially primary source is not so much for what you learn as what you unlearn: namely, that the way your society does stuff is the natural, normal, and probably universal way to do things.

      You have probably attained this goal when you read about something modern day and think that it is a modern day peculiarity.

      1. I grew up somewhere between Elizabethan and Victorian England, when it came to every day conditions. Knowing that things aren’t “just natural” is my default condition 😉

        1. Useful skill. I still remember an indignant crit asking what sort of society carefully chaperones princesses and lets princes run about freely. And my instant thought, “A normal one.”

  7. “But I didn’t. My brother had told me Romance was the opium of womanhood (more on that later)”
    I was hoping later in this post. Darn.

      1. Interesting relevant insights in this story linked by Instapundit:

        SHOCKER: WOMEN’S SEXUALITY NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT. “One woman, in the art world in New York, told me, ‘I could not say what you said without feeling shamed, as though my eroticism made me a willing participant in a patriarchal system.’ ” Few things in nature are politically correct. Political correctness is the most outre fantasy of all.
        http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/168759/

  8. Leave it on the sofa, they’ll find it. Leave it in the bookshelf,they’ll find it. Especially if there’s a chore that needs doing, or actual school work.
    “All right, who was reading ‘Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn?’ And where was it, anyway? Haven’t seen it for years!”

    1. LOL– when the parents decided that I didn’t need to read anymore, I would hide the book in my pants so when I had a few minutes (on the toilet, between tasks) I could read for a few minutes. *sigh The parents caught on and I had to learn to hide books in different places every day.

        1. Doesn’t everyone do that? I used to have three or four books going simultaneously, switching based on mood, ease of carrying, or just chance. I do that less with ebooks, though.

          I’ve been reading Tolkien continuously since I was 9. Mind you, I haven’t opened one of the books in a couple of years, but I could pick the one with the bookmark up and take up where I left off.

          1. A friend was once commenting on how much his wife read, and said that she often had several books going at once, like it was something weird.

            My husband and I both looked at him, and said, “So?”

            On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 11:14 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > ** > Rob Crawford commented: “Doesn’t everyone do that? I used to have three > or four books going simultaneously, switching based on mood, ease of > carrying, or just chance. I do that less with ebooks, though. I’ve been > reading Tolkien continuously since I was 9. Mind you, I haven’t ” >

            1. I’ve met people who only read sequentially – heck, my wife does that! – but it always seemed weird to me. 3-4 books at a time, not counting the various ebooks, magazines and the like. If I have 5 minutes free – heck, TWO minutes! – I’m reading something.

              1. There is sequential and sequential. I read multiple items at the same time, but I read each one sequentially. Now beautiful Jasini, my wife, (see her comment above), she will read multiple items, and some of them she reads the back first, then the beginning, then middle. THAT is what I find unusual.

                1. No, I’m more likely to read the beginning, ending, then the middle (especially in mysteries).

                  I’m less likely to do so when I’m reading on my Nook, though. It’s harder just to flip around.

                  On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 9:03 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                  > ** > Be Swift, Be Precise commented: “There is sequential and sequential. I > read multiple items at the same time, but I read each one sequentially. Now > beautiful Jasini, my wife, (see her comment above), she will read multiple > items, and some of them she reads the back first, then the beginn” >

                1. Well, if you read fast enough, you’re already done with one book before you have any reason to switch to another.

                  For some reason, almost all history majors read several books at once. I think it’s a research habit.

                  1. It is. You read or you flunk. And if you are doing document research, you often have a secondary source that you are working through, to help you make some sense of the primary documents, especially if you are not as familiar with the context of the primary sources as you could/should be.

      1. My parents freaked out before my first standardized test at the end of fourth grade. See, they couldn’t swear I wouldn’t answer questions with “that question is stupid, here is why” since I’d been doing exactly that through elementary school. (Fortunately I had a teacher with a sense of humor. Also smart woman. She told me to stop despising fairy tales and read them for “old, hidden truths.”)
        They decided (G-d alone knows why) that the way for me to ace the exam was to spend a month without any of those nasty novel distractions. So, I was told, no more carrying a book around.
        This meant every night I hid books in any place I would linger a few minutes. It meant reading six books at once, but I think I read more than month than before or after.
        The best part? When I aced the tests, they congratulated themselves on their strategy.
        But they never tried it again.

        1. 🙂 At least it was only 30 days, mine was more like six years. I got really good at hiding books. It is a form of torture imho.

          1. It is a form of torture imho.

            I wholeheartedly agree.

            On the other hand, The Mother-In-Law insisted you should never stop a child who was reading. Although she allowed that this meant that sending The Spouse to his room as a punishment never really worked. His books were there and he seemed to prefer to be reading to anything else anyway. (His older brother once wrote home from camp suggesting that should come get him as they were wasting their money on sending him to camp since all he did was read.)

            I had told her that if I followed her advise on this matter The Daughter would never get anything done, particularly getting dressed in the morning. (“Dear, please, it is time for you to put the book down again and put on your other sock…” etcetera, etcetera, and so forth …)

            1. As I said, though mom’s war on silly books was… silly, I must have been a great trial. I could mop the kitchen floor while reading! (Now I have audio books. It goes faster. I can use two hands.)
              BTW, the other day I told mom “remember all those times you asked me sarcastically if reading that science fiction novel was really necessary for my future profession? Well, mom, YES IT WAS.”
              Did you know you can hear someone roll her eyes over the phone from Portugal? True fact.

              1. I phoned Daddy after one particularly aggravating day of parenting. I told him that I could understand why he had laid one of the universal parental curses upon me. You know the one: You just wait until you grow up and one day you will have a kid who is like you and you will know what it is like. I said I probably deserved it, but had he ever considered what it had meant for his grandchild? The man laughed at me!

                1. I think this is the reason my mom adores her #2 grandchild on this side (#4 over all.) He is the instrument of her vengeance. I think her best days are when I call and can’t speak, you know “Marshall is so AHHHHHH. He just GAAAAAAAAAAAH.”

                  1. I’m probably the only person I know who has children and would have preferred to have kids just like me, instead of the ones I had. I was not prepared for these two, though Chris has finally come down off the crazy train in the last couple of years.

            2. Well– I could have been that daughter *sigh. And yes, I do believe that the parents would have had to tell me to put up the books even if they were okay with the reading. Horrors– when was really young, they wanted me to play softball.

              1. Funny thing is, my mom probably would’ve been a geek like me… if she’d had a different family situation. As it is, she wanted to be her dad when she grew up, and he was Mr. Davinci of the WWII Vet in a Logging Town format.

                So, she played softball, bucked bails, fixed equipment, worked leather, etc– with a paperback in her pocket for any spare second.

                Horrified her very lady-like, proper mother.

                1. No– my mother was NOT a geek– no way, no how 😉 My dad was dyslexic (at least I think he was because he couldn’t figure out how to read until after he left high school.) Plus the brother most like him is also dyslexic.

                2. I’ve bucked lots of bales, but am still trying to figure out how you buck a bail. Doesn’t the bucket get in the way?

                3. Momma had no trouble about me tending toward tomboy until I neared my teens, and suddenly I was supposed to morph into a sophisticated, but old fashioned, proper young lady. (Don’t ask, Momma was, um?, a bit pixilated.*)

                  * pixilated, adjective – possessed or otherwise seriously effected by pixies. See: Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town.

        1. Cyn was raised in an odd branch of an offbeat religion. Mind you, my mom often decided that my reading too much would damage my sanity, but mostly all she did was rant, then blame my dad, then take my dad’s book away so he would listen to her rant, and then he’d take the book back, claim the sofa, and I’d sit next to him to read, and mom would fume off. I think we were a great trial for her. Mind you, she read too, but she read “real” stuff — history and mythology, and “how things work” and an awful lot of politics (I got the bug from her) which I suppose had less power to send you mad maaaaaad.
          But at least it wasn’t a religious thing.

          1. My mom I think still has trouble with the concept that Dad and I read books multiple times (and not just years later when we’ve forgotten major points, but soon after).

            Of course, you have to be careful with that, too. I remember reading “A Little Princess” for the first time, really loving it, then going back immediately and re-reading it, and suddenly seeing the plot hole you could drive a truck through, which ruined my reading fun of that book for a year or two. (Now I just have to be careful to read *around* the plot hole, and not go through it).

            On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > ** > accordingtohoyt commented: “Cyn was raised in an odd branch of an > offbeat religion. Mind you, my mom often decided that my reading too much > would damage my sanity, but mostly all she did was rant, then blame my dad, > then take my dad’s book away so he would listen to her rant, and t” >

            1. There are books I can read just once and I can’t stomach going back over them again no matter how compelling the plot and the ideas, and there are books that are so beautifully written in concept and prose that I read them over and over again. Pratchett and Piper are two, but Drake’s _Ignighting the Reaches_ trilogy I have also read so many times I have just about destroyed them.

          2. Exactly– plus there was a time when my parents decided that we were only allowed to read church books or books written by church members. Yes– I have an interesting perspective about Christian writers. *sigh– I only read CS Lewis– Plus reading is breathing to me, so I ended up reading warning labels and the back of boxes– anything I could get my eyes on–

            1. IDENTIFY!!
              I’ll read my wife’s G.L.Hill books if I have nothing else.
              Fortunately, there’s always something else to read.

            2. When The Daughter was yet a little thing, still using a step to get on the adult facility in the bathroom, we found her in there reading the back of a Woolite bottle for lack of anything else. She quickly learned to carry reading matter with her.

        2. I did, however, tutor several bright girls doing really badly in school because their parents only allowed them to read “improving” books, which in Portugal was mostly the lives of saints. Usually if I could convince the parents to let the kids just read whatever, they roared off the gate. Some parents, though, were convinced reading “made up stuff” would make their daughters marriageable. There is a lot of Islam underlying Portuguese culture.

          1. I’m assuming that when you wrote “reading “made up stuff” would make their daughters marriageable.” what you MEANT was UNmarriageable.

            Otherwise, those are very odd parents.

          2. I found an art history book with pictures of the saints. Dang, but those were a lot gorier and scarier than anything I’d read up to that point. Angry dragons had nothing, I say nothing, on St. Lawrence and some of the French saints. *shudder*

            1. Lives of the saints are _very_ educational about daily life stuff, as well as giving you good excuses to do practically anything. It also takes a lot of idealism out of you about how all bishops, priests, nuns, parents, boyfriends, etc. are going to be nice and good, because you learn a lot about people being nasty to saints. Also the saints with shady pre-saint lives are educational in their way.

              But yeah, if it’s the saccharine ones and not the ones close to primary sources, you will lose out on a lot of info. The huge number of Italian women lay preacher saints, for instance, or what really killed St. Charles Lwanga (though in that case, really young kids probably don’t need to know, but older kids will), or the geopolitics that sometimes explain why the heck St. X was doing Y. Also, modern saint books leave out the good stuff, like mass teleportation.

              But yeah, you wouldn’t want to have nothing but hagiography to read.

              1. I was going to say before I hit your second paragraph THESE lives of saints weren’t real. They were full of people who were just all sweet and nice, naturally, and made flowers grow and stuff. I mean, you needed insulin.

                1. Ah, the saints as Mary Sue fairy tales. Yeah, that’s not going to help much

                  That’s a shame, though. Portugal had a fair amount of variety and some tough, tough saints. St. Nuno Alvarez Pereira, that dude who founded the Lay Carmelites and started out as a great knight and general (and the bastard son of a Knight Hospitaller, himself a bastard son of a bishop – yeah, probably not in the kids’ version). Or St. Elizabeth of Portugal, the only saint I know who has an architectural style named after her.

                  1. The school I attended as Queen Saint Elizabeth school (yes it WAS a public school.) Statue of her in the atrium, opening her apron with the roses (I’ve often wondered if that miracle got ported to the one in Hungary (?) or vice versa or if this was something Elizabeths were prone to doing.)

                    1. Were they? All we heard about the Portuguese St. Elizabeth was that she was Castellan. She was married to the third king. Actually the two things I remember about her are that she raised the children her husband sired by a mistress, and that in fact her son was jealous of her “step son” (for lack of a better word.) Eventually they got in a civil war, and she went out into the battle field, stood in the middle of the armies and demanded they stop it right now! And they did.

                    2. She was a very learned medieval lady, I know that, and she certainly seems to have had her nose and her generous hand into everything, from the poor folks to the geopolitical stuff. Apparently she was named for St. E of Hungary, who was her great-aunt, and she emulated her spirituality by becoming a 3rd Order Franciscan (which St E of H never got a chance to join, but supported). And yet the roses thing is all we usually hear about.

                      So the answer is that I don’t know… but there are cases when “copycat” miracles really do happen. (Most notably stigmata: nobody seems to have had them before St. Francis, but after him, there’ve been many genuine stigmatists, as well as a lot of wannabes trying to have them or conning others that they do.) Probably because God sometimes does grant people the miracles they dream of.There are several other lap of flowers saints, and then of course St. Juan Diego reversed the whole thing by having the heavenly flowers produce a heavenly picture! I blame St. Dorothy back in Roman times for starting the whole trope, though, because she’s the first one who promised flowers and fruit from Heaven; St. Therese emulated her by promising roses.

                    3. The reason I always wondered is that while it might work in the story of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the Portuguese king was a bon vivant and a bit of a playboy for the time (he brought troubadour poetry into Portugal) but he seems to have been, from all his other stories a well… a good intentioned, charitable kind of man, so the idea of his getting mad at her for distributing bread seems a bit… out of place. Like it’s agglutinated from elsewhere. He also seems to have been fairly learned. Beyond the poetry, he had pine trees planted along the coast, to stop the sand otherwise carried by the coastal winds. That way, people were able to farm closer to the beach, which since Portugal is one LONG beach… I don’t know whether or not he started the University at Coimbra, but if not it was his kid who did it (It’s that old.)

                    4. Possibly focused on something else?

                      I know that I didn’t think about what a stolen loaf meant until Mary C. posted about how that could mean the bakery goes out of business– I’d imagine that giving away bread wouldn’t do much for those who depend on selling it for survival. Add in human limitations on knowledge and it could make sense.

                    5. Roses are also amazingly symbolic, and very royal.

                      When they get a consistently sky blue rose*, I fully expect it to be called Mother Mary and highly used at Catholic Churches.

                      * I know that some of the roses are blue, some of the time.

                    6. Apparently the oldest version of the Hungary story was basically a sort of St. Brigit situation — St E gave away and sold a lot of stuff hanging around the castle (including state robes on occasion), and the nobles got annoyed and accused her of stealing jewels and other state property. So one time when she was out with a load, her husband asked her to show the nobles what she was carrying (which was bread, not state robes), and the roses showed up instead. And the Hungarians say the king was pretty nice, actually; and St E apparently agreed, as she is quoted as saying that it was as if the world died when her husband did. So….

                      I don’t know what the Portugal research is. That St. E seems to have mostly given away her own stuff, but I imagine there may have been criticism about how she used her budget from the Crown.

                      I did read the thing about riding out in the middle of a battlefield preventatively. And even though she had royal kin on both sides, that’s a valiant woman for sure!

                  2. On passing this line yet again it occurs to me that Saint Mary Sue should have a tale. Possibly to have been put through the test via boredom — or, on the other hand, by being sentenced to perpetual service in a nursery of very brilliant and active toddlers.

          3. Abby Smith’s mother was quite concerned about her daughter’s extensive reading. Somewhat sickly, she had remained at home when her sisters were sent off to school. In her immediate family were two of the largest private libraries on the continent. Mrs. Smith believed that all that reading had made her Abby unmarriageable, but when young John made her acquaintance he was charmed — and eventually made her Mrs. Abigail Adams. ( 😉 )

        3. YEP– I was the maid– and my entire job was to care for babies, make dinner, can, and clean. Plus I was expected to teach school to my younger siblings when the parents took us out of school. So yea– I had my childhood and teenagehood in my twenties and thirties instead. (Was expected to act like a parent from the time I was eight.) I have talked about this a few times here. I won’t get into it again– let’s just say that my ideas of family are a little skewed. 😉

        4. My folks gave up on trying to take away reading as a punishment when I stopped reading ANYTHING, including schoolwork, and said it was because my parents said so. A couple of parent teacher conferences later and that went away.

          1. My kids are good at lawyering like that.

            Have absolutely no idea where they would get it from.

            On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 8:22 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > ** > snelson134 commented: “My folks gave up on trying to take away reading > as a punishment when I stopped reading ANYTHING, including schoolwork, and > said it was because my parents said so. A couple of parent teacher > conferences later and that went away.” >

      2. My parents once made me return all my books to the library and get no more out, just because we were going on vacation.

        that was when I started writing.

    2. Put it on the bookshelf and tell them they can’t read it; not that they shouldn’t, but that they’re not smart enough for it. That’s how I ended up working my way through The Complete Works of Shakespeare the summer between 5th and 6th grade. My dad was impressed and started handing me classic sci-fi every time he could afford to buy it.

  9. Second – if you’re directing kids’ reading: other than outright porno (and why in heck would you have that — where they could reach, anyway?) don’t limit them. You can say “I think you’re a little too young to fully appreciate that” (be aware, though that this will ENSURE they read it then, so use it advisedly.) And you can say “I didn’t think that would be your thing.” But mostly, make books available and let them find their own path.

    Talk to them about what they’re reading, too– if they’re getting books from school, read them. Mom “borrowing” books is awesome, and you can keep major issues from hitting as hard.

    1. Yeah, but in fourth grade, Marshall fell in love with hard SF of the “let me give you thirty pages on theory of space travel” type. I wasn’t going to read that for anybody. Not even for him.

          1. Computer game I’m currently addicted to. A (relatively) hard science rocket simulator — you stack together pieces to make your rocket, then launch them to see how they work. Half the fun is in the failures — explosions and things flying everywhere.

            During manned missions you get to watch the expressions on the faces of the crew. Last manned mission I ran had them screaming from launch until the ship landed and its engines were off.

              1. My little brother loves that game. Giant timesucker. The helper programs apparently help a lot in planning mission trajectories and launch windows.

            1. My husband is thoroughly addicted. He’s got a probe at Jules (Jupiter) right now.

      1. Yes, even when you have massive shared interests, they won’t be the same. My son, –publicly– hates Dr. Who. I mean, really? But Heinlein we share, and Weber, and Ringo, oh and Sarah Hoyt, an odd author you may never have heard of.

        And my daughter never -ever- got started on SF despite priming the pump. Fortunately, she and I both read essays and analytic non-fiction and have that to talk about. (She found “Outliers” before I did. I beat her to anything by Matt Ridley. )

        1. BTW, OT, your avatar when you comment is your picture, but after re-load, it’s a dead moose, all paws in the air. I have NO idea what causes it.

          1. hmmm The photo is my facebook profile pic. The dead horse is the “Dead Horses” logo for the 1632 “whipping dead horses sometimes works” file on 1632.org. Why it changes I have no idea.

          1. The Who aversion is a common act of childhood rebellion. Major League Baseball players (and other athletes, I am sure) frequently suffer the indignity of offspring who root for other teams.

            The Daughtorial Unit adamantly rejected Marvel characters in favor of the DC Universe (purely, I am convicted, to spite me.)

            1. Younger son wouldn’t read SF/F for the longest time. And now refuses to let anyone but me see his writing. Since his writing is amazingly good, this makes me mad enough to gnaw my arm off.

            2. Hm… depends on when she did this.

              We’ve got a mixed marriage– I’m a Nightcrawler fan, my husband is a Batman devotee– but if our girls choose DC, I’m going to just assume that Marvel is being especially stupid again. (Homosexual Colossus. Kurt Wagner, son of Satan. Etc.)

              1. I can top that — hate the production values; hate the plots; hate the characters; don’t care about the actors. Old or New, makes no difference (save that the fact that modern audiences are living in brick-shitting terror of the cheapest “special effect” in history — having a series of statues in different poses which are swapped whenever there’s a scene change — speaks much to the weakness of the Modern Generation).

    2. Egads. I tried talking about some of the books I read to my mother (don’t even think about talking about them to my father), and she started worrying that I thought the stuff in the sci-fi books I was talking about was real. I never talked to her about books again.

        1. That was a common parental worry in the Seventies and Eighties, usually connected with fears that you were becoming part of the conspiracy/occult/Von Daniken/UFO believer sphere.

          Funnily enough, Mom didn’t worry about that when I was in the 4th grade chugging down cryptid stuff (wasn’t called that back then) and everything weird that was close to it in the Dewey Decimal system. When I was a teenager and a skeptic about most stuff, then she started to worry.

          1. Maybe, but based on what she said, I’m pretty sure my mother simply thought I was just becoming delusional (or maybe schizophrenic – not too clear on the distinction here). She didn’t really think in terms of weird groups of people, just the individual.

          2. Hehe, my mom met all of my reading interests– including the news!– with the same trust-nobody-what-could-be-the-other-side tactics.

            In defense of those parents that worried about it, though– it was a big blame-it-on-video-games type thing that famously crested with that horrible bit of historical hash, Mazes and Monsters.

            That said, I’m still extremely testy about the “dragons means satanic, always” religious/ moral movement. Gag. Just because I don’t also like the “all monsters are good and anybody who doubts it is evil” trope doesn’t mean I’m going to buy into an equally mentally defunct trope.

        2. After a prolonged inability to read SF/F or even much of any kind of fiction I eventually reached the conclusion that nothing I read in any book is real and that fiction at least has “Truth in Labeling” in its favor.

          Major Swindon: What will history say, sir?
          General John Burgoyne: History, sir, will tell lies, as usual!
          [SNIP]
          The rest of this story is pure fiction. Rest assured, you can believe every word of it.
          George Bernard Shaw, The Devil’s Disciple

          1. From DS9:

            *Bashir:* What I want to know is, out of all the stories you told me which ones were true and which ones weren’t? *Garak:* My dear doctor…they’re all true. *Bashir:* Even the lies? *Garak:* *Especially* the lies.

            On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 3:25 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > ** > RES commented: “After a prolonged inability to read SF/F or even much > of any kind of fiction I eventually reached the conclusion that nothing I > read in any book is real and that fiction at least has “Truth in Labeling” > in its favor.Major Swindon: What will history say, s” >

            1. *deep sigh* Ah, two of my most beloved characters that I’d probably kill if I had to be around them in reality.

              For different reasons, of course.

        3. I think my parents thought the same because they thought ESCAPE was bad… only thing that kept me sane was escape. I planned a few actual runaways and then decided that I would have to runaway when I was old enough to work. 😉

          1. My mom kept asking me “Is your life so bad that you have to escape all the time? Why don’t you do the things the other girls your age are doing?”

            I really didn’t have much of an answer for that. I was working full time, playing softball and reading 2-3 books a week. What the girls my age were doing was dating, loitering, causing problems; the worst ones were getting pregnant and stealing because they were bored. It’s the only thing my very practical mother and I disagreed over more than once and the fights were legendary.

              1. Thankfully, my mom didn’t do that when I was that age– she saved it up for now to beat herself up over…while also beating herself up for not stopping my sister from being so much like girls her age.

                If we weren’t also self-martyrs, it’d be annoying…..

            1. YES–I am 51 and there were a lot of girls in my age group who became pregnant at 14– I was too busy, way too busy to be interested in what these girls were doing.

              1. This one thing might be said in favor of you mother’s theory and practice of pedagogy. 😉

                1. You would have to meet my mother to understand what I am going to say– she is an extrovert and I am an introvert. We did not understand each other or even did well together. I wouldn’t have been interested anyway because I was much slower (puberty wise). Now the sisters (I have three near my age) got into a lot of shenanigans with boys. She did understand them. Now I doubt she (my mother) would understand pedagogy, let alone have one– (We still circle around each other like two dominant females and do better on the phone than in person). 😉

                  1. Sorry. It is hard. Momma and I never saw eye to eye, even when we were the same height. 😉

                    1. Oh I am over it I just learned many years ago the reasons we were in compatible. 😉 Plus I look down on her physically– probably doesn’t help lol

          2. “I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.”

      1. Yeah, I never realized how lucky I was to have a mom that would bring that stuff up after reading it on her own.

      2. I have similar reasons why I am significantly more comfortable being alone for reading, writing, watching TV, and playing computer games.

  10. Sarah wrote: “if you’re directing kids’ reading…don’t limit them.

    I couldn’t agree more. From 2 years old on, I’ve never limited either their book reading or even movie watching. I’ve always just said, “I think that may upset you for reasons X, Y, and Z and/or you’ll enjoy that a LOT more in a few years so you may want to wait, but you can read or watch that if you want.” When they were really little, a couple times they watched anyway, were somewhat upset, and then after that, never once did they go against my advice. Not once!

    1. We have had a similar experience. Early in grade school The Daughter kept expressing a desire to read a particular youth version of Dracula. Knowing her temperament at the time, we explained that while she could read it, it might not be the best choice for her right now. We did eventually let her read it as she continued to ask. She slept with the lights on for a while. She also gained some understanding of the difference between being able to do something and the wisdom of doing so.

    2. I’ve been known to think that Kratman would be fine for younger readers, if it weren’t for the sexual content. On the other hand, when I was a younger reader, I wouldn’t have been able to get near as much out of his books.

      1. One of the greatest problems we had with The Daughter being an very early and voracious reader was finding material that rose to her ability to think and read, but, at the same time, whose content did not require a level of life experience and emotional maturity that she had not yet obtained.

      2. I tend to agree, it is the one reason I don’t recommend Kratman and Williamson for younger readers.

        “On the other hand, when I was a younger reader, I wouldn’t have been able to get near as much out of his books.”
        That is why you reread books, good ones are worth reread many times.

        1. I had a friend who claimed that rereading a book was too boring, because he remembered the books he had read, and always knew what was coming.

          Discussions about books I had read multiple times (I don’t have a great memory, so I couldn’t compare books I had read less than 3 times) indicated that he was full of it.

          1. My kids say I had an eidetic memory, prior to concussion. That’s not how I think of it, but if I read something and willed myself to remember it, I did, period. Even without willing myself to remember it, I remembered most of most books I read (and I read a lot.) I still re-read the good ones. You’re not reading for info. It’s like saying you won’t go on that roller coaster ride, because you can see the design…

            1. I don’t have an eidetic memory, but I could remember most of what I read– which made school and taking tests much easier than it was for other people. I lost a lot of the skill when I was on chemo for ten years–

              My uncle– bless his soul– (snort) had an eidetic memory until the last few years when his brain started to age. He said it was like having a really good indexing system. It was that memory that won him a scholarship with the Army where he became an attorney. Sadly– he was involved with a group that tried to prove the Holocaust a hoax. Even now– I learned early that just because someone has that kind of skill doesn’t make him wise or have common sense.

            2. It’s like saying you won’t go on that roller coaster ride, because you can see the design…

              Good grief, yes! There are ever so many things that you repeat. A walk in the woods on a spring day is never really the same as the before. Sure you know the rises and falls, the trees, the shrubs and the flowers, but that very familiarity allows you to look beyond the surface and notice new and different things.

              There are certain books I consider very good friends. We know each other well, and have heard most of each other’s stories before. That doesn’t put me off wanting to visit again.

                1. Also, one’s reading ability can improve over time, to better grasp deeper works. When trying to read a story closely, I first read to know what happens, then I reread, and maybe take notes, for more details. Just being attentive to different things can change which details one notices.

                  Plus, I change over time.

  11. I was an evil child. (Yes, I grew up to be a lawyer.)
    I would go out and buy the first book in a series. Or the first two books in a series. And then I’d go home and leave them out where Mom would find them.
    And then I would wait. (Poor mom. I dropped the first three books of the Belgariad on her, and then we both had to wait for the last two books.)

  12. Alas, about the only thing that’s out of my comfort zone these days are best-selling thrillers and westerns. I read a few westerns as I was genre-hopping in my youth and found them… not to my taste. Not bad, really, just kinda boring. Of course, I was also *writing* romance in 4th grade, with fade to black for the sex because I didn’t really understand the mechanics but I did know it was important.

    I remember my mom being very irritated because every time there was a new librarian she had to explain to them that yes, I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry, yes from the adult section. It wasn’t until my mom saw the cover of one book I picked up (Andre Norton, it had a dragon and a nearly naked chick. I was interested in the dragon) that she started really paying attention to what I was reading. My son is not nearly as voracious a reader as I was at his age so mostly I’m just keeping him in Encyclopedia Brown and science books. Once he’s ready to try new stuff, though, I have a whole library for him to choose from and he can read whatever he wants. His dad wants to shelter him a bit more but I really don’t think he needs it.

    1. My daughter, however, gets 3 books at nap time, 3 books before bed and has been known to lure unsuspecting guests to her room to read her every book on her bookshelf. She’s 2.5 and does school for fun with my mom every day. I suspect it’s going to be a challenge to keep up with her.

      1. Believe it. In two or three years, when she wants math and science, ask in this forum. we should have some links to programs to help ease your pain.
        Right now, I know the magic school bus my kids did are excellent, but you’d have to find an ancient computer to run them on.

        1. I’ll definitely be asking but my mother may beat me to it. I swear, her calling is to be an elementary school teacher to gifted kids. She says that all she does is praise them, give them attention and feed their curiosity. For me, that basically translated into almost living at the library. For my kids? Well, my son has a computer controlled telescope that is light years better than my first telescope and my daughter has a ballet set up in “her” room at my parents house and a kindergarten in the dining room. Honestly, I’m a little jealous of all the cool toys lol.

          1. Oh, yeah. My older son writing an essay pointed out how we buy clothes used and sometimes food was iffy, but there was always money for the latest learning gadgets.
            Frankly, I found the same applies to mentoring writers. Praise them, give them attention, and point out minor flaws.

    2. I remember my mom being very irritated because every time there was a new librarian she had to explain to them that yes, I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry, yes from the adult section.

      Understood: I usually discovered there was a new librarian on duty when The Daughter would come to find me and pull me up to the check out counter.

      The new librarian would inevitably ask, ‘Do you know how many books she has here?’

      ‘Yes.’

      The new librarian continues, ‘Do you know what they are?’

      Glancing at the pile, ‘Yes.’

      The new librarian, trying once more, sure I have not understood, ‘Do you really want to let her check them all out? You know they will be due back on X?’

      ‘Yes, and yes. No problem. We will see you next week to return these and take out some more.’

      On the other hand, once they knew The Daughter we had little trouble. I believe it was the librarian in charge of the archived stacks who suggested The Daughter try a collection that contained a short story by an author previously unknown to us, Diana Wynne Jones. The Daughter shared that story with us, and we were all hooked.

      1. Robert’s particular form of insanity when he was about 13 was professional journals, particularly Chemistry, biology and medicine. I THINK back then (eight years ago! Pre-history!) they were all pay-per on line. So, we’d go to the public library. He’d find the information desk and try to figure out how to get the particular articles (he usually had numbers) he wanted printed out.
        After a while he knew the process better than the librarians did, including how to get stuff shipped from other libraries. At one point, a new librarian looked over at me and said, “I can’t make him understand he should get these through his college.”
        me, “That’s because he is in middle school.”
        her — looks at son, at the time six feet tall — “But why does he want to read these?”
        “It’s his notion of fun.”
        Look at Robert “you understand them?”
        Robert, puzzled, “They’re written in English.”
        End of discussion.
        At fourteen, having his knee operated on (Football injury) and going under anesthesia he chose to enlarge on what he’d read of the procedure. Doctors and nurses gathered to listen. (Which still gratifies me, because I didn’t think he was saying anything out of the ordinary. I mean, he always talks like that.)

        1. Oh, yes, inter-library loans, lovely things. I think it was the same librarian who oversaw the archives that told The Daughter about that, after that she would order books from libraries all over. As well as various scholarly works she was also able to find, among things, Le Fanu and Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin stories. Project Gutenberg has also been her very great friend.

          1. Yes, when I discovered them I think I ordered every Jim Kjelgard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard book ever published.

            Our public library didn’t give out library cards to kids under ten or twelve (I don’t remember the age) so when I was younger my mom had to check all the books out in her name, once I was old enough to have my own card I don’t recall the librarians blinking about what I checked out, but I do recall they had a limit on how many books could be checked out at once, other than that I don’t know if they even really glanced at what the books were.

  13. My parents followed the “age-inappropriate books go on the top shelf where even we can’t reach them” school of censorship, thus implying that said volumes were too dull even for adults. 🙂 It worked. I was 16 before I bothered getting a stepladder and leafing through the big book of limericks.

      1. So did I. And very carefully replaced the books when I was done reading them, in case someone was checking what was on the top shelf.

    1. Daddy had fortunately built his book cases strong, for from quite a young age, I, a climber by nature, took to scaling them. Found interesting stuff, such as Ralph Ginzburg hard cover magazine Eros…which was as close to porn as was to be found in our house, but considered quite scandalous at the time. 😉

    2. The only books I recall being hidden by my mom (my dad struggles with reading, and might read a book every couple years) were her romances that she kept under the bed until she had enough boxes of them, to bother with loading up the truck and taking them to the Goodwill. Because they were hidden I figured they must be something good and snuck one about fourth grade, I found it extremely boring at that age, and never went back for another.

  14. I also started my serious reading with Heinlein…and Andre Norton, then Dumas…my native family was the kind that you read about and think “this can’t be real…NO family can be this bad…” and that was my relief valve until I turned 17 and was able to twist my mother’s arm enough to get her to approve my enlistment in the US Navy…

    On my previous post regarding “Ill Met By Moonlight”…my comment about the beginning of a beautiful friendship was not regarding the book, although I am enjoying it immensely (now starting Scene 5) but with the authoress…this is the first work of yours I have read and am hoping that milady’s husband does not object to my budding appreciation…

  15. I think I must mention that I have a cousin who is still a bibliomanic but hates librarians because of the ones who thought Watership Down has bunnies and must be a kids’ book, and so put it in his way.

    Because he had spina bifada, and it was misdiagnosed, he could read before he could walk; he taught himself to read from Sears catalogs and read All the President’s Men when he was six, but he really still resents that librarian.

    Trying to head off nightmares may be advisable.

    1. The scary animated Watership Down frightened me off the book for years. When I finally got up the nerve to pick it up, my reaction was along the lines of, “This is the best book EVER.”

      My 8yo son is currently reading it. No nightmares yet.

      But I do think (as parents) you should know your kids’ triggers. I have a friend with bright daughters who are prone to night terrors. She monitors their TV watching and reading because she’s the one who has to deal with the aftermath. A few months ago, my kids watched the original Star Wars movies with my husband. 4 and 6 yos stuck through the entire thing; 8 yo spent large parts of episodes 5 & 6 up in his room, reading Calvin & Hobbes. None of them finished the “kid’s” animated movie, The Iron Giant (watching the giant being electrocuted in the power lines was too much for them).

      Sometimes they do surprise me with what they choose to read. When oldest son was 6, he read all the way through the Little House books, even when Laura was all grown up and married. My 6yo daughter picked “The Black Stallion” over the Ramona Quimby books. I keep throwing books at them and see what sticks. 😀

      1. Reading books too young can be damaging. One of my sisters and I were introduced to Poe in middle school and put off him for life.

        1. Well, if she’s six, of course she’s reading horse books. I was crazy for horse books up until 6th grade or so, and I still like ’em a lot. Make sure she gets Marguerite Henry.

          1. Yeah, she’s rather stuck on horses and unicorns. These days she’s reading the same six Gail Carson Levine fairy tale retellings over and over and–over again.

            We’ll check out the Marguerite Henry books next time we head over to the library. 🙂

            1. Oooh, has she gotten into Robin McKinley’s “Pegasus”? Warning, only book one is out.

              I think Bruce Coville had a pretty good unicorn series, too.

              1. She tried McKinley’s Beauty a while ago, but didn’t like it enough (yet) to keep going.

                Some times I feel sorry for my kids for having bookish parents–we’re always pressing books into their hands, going, “I LOVED this when I was a kid.” Kinda takes the thrill of discovery out of things for them. Maybe that’s why oldest son refused to read fantasy for the longest time (though he’s happy to let us do Narnia, The Dark is Rising, etc. as family read-alouds). He read mystery and adventure instead. And lots and lots of science books.

            2. Oh, good. The illustrated versions are lovely, and a lot of the books incorporate tons of Real History and Useful Geography. But always, they’re great stories and full of both good horse knowledge and good sense about people.

            3. I loved “Wild Horses of the Rio Grande” by George Franklin. We also had several of Will James’ books at the library.

            4. I think I had the entire collection of every book written by Walter Farley when I was a kid (they are still probably at my parents house) there was another good horse author that I can’t remember the name of, but I would skip getting her Black Beauty if I was you. I have no idea how that book got to be a classic with such a big name, I tried to read it several times during my life, and always ended up finding the ingredients listed on a pop can more engrossing.

              1. Hmm… I found it rather interesting when I read it to the boys. Not particularly my thing, but not bad, either.

              2. She found the (possibly abridged) audio CD of Black Beauty among our audio books (the kid has an unerring nose for anything horsy) and already listened to it a couple of times already.

                Is Marguerite Henry the other horse book author you might be thinking of?

        2. aye. But maybe it wasn’t WHEN you were introduced? I mean some “classics” just won’t be to your taste. Poe to me is like being stuck in early teen angst forever.

        3. I was fourteen or fifteen before I read Poe (saw the movies– hated said movies), but I read everything Poe including poetry for about two weeks. Then I had enough. I go back and read “nevermore” once in awhile.

        4. Chung and Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story messed me up pretty good, and I was legally an adult.

          1. I think my kid just went through that with an unexpurgated biography of Che. I mean, he knew the sick sob was a mass murderer, but now it’s amped to twelve and he wants to punch out anyone wearing a Che shirt.

            1. I don’t know that wanting to punch out someone wearing a che t-shirt is any different from wanting to punch out someone wearing the klan’s iconic hood and robe.

      2. Sometimes the triggers can be strange. We had a computer game (I think it was Dungeon Keeper), where the music would cause one son to have nightmares.

          1. Yeah, we figured out it was the music, because it didn’t matter if he watched, or just sat close enough to hear it.

            1. Oh, and this is one who loves to watch horror movies, and they don’t bother him.

          1. That is understandable; what Disney does to classic novels is terrifying. I still get screaming meemies from what they did to The Jungle Book and Tarzan. It is like discovering a childhood playmate brain damaged, dancing for coins on an organ grinder’s leash.

          2. In one of his non-fiction books, Stephen King mentioned that his (then very young) son was scared of the villain from _One Hundred and One Dalmatians_. After all, somebody who was trying to kidnap & kill talking puppies might decide to go after little boys.

            1. I found the book 101 Dalmations is based on, and after that I couldn’t stand the movie. They took out some of the best characters, and dumbed the others down unforgivably.

              1. It’s been a while since I read the book _101 Dalmatians_ and seen the Disney movie so I can’t compare them. However, I did read the sequel to the book so I’d say the book sequel is much better than the Disney sequel. [Smile]

              2. I read the book, and was never able to watch the movie, which I find a common occurrence with movies ‘based’ on books.

                1. I still can’t figure out how the movie The Wizard of Oz came from the book…

          3. Uh, no Sarah, I went with you guys to that screening. I went with him to the lobby when he started crying. He wasn’t screaming, he wasn’t frightened, he just lost his G#$%D@&*F!#$S%!!! Pez dispenser again.
            I used to walk out on horror movies all the time because they were more boring than I had been lead to believe, as I believe in the Lost Value Theory, which Dan does not hold to. IE, if the product you paid for was not worth the money and is boring, and you cannot get your money back, it is self-punishment to sit through a performance you find distasteful. I did walk out on one movie I couldn’t take: “The Exorcist,” though I caught it in the theater and sat through it years later.

          4. I got thrown out of Hercules for yelling in the theater. I was horrified from the moment they introduced him as the son of Zeus and Hera. I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies with my parents for a few years after that.

            1. I was particularly annoyed that they were saying things like that, while singing “It’s the gospel truth.”

              On Tue, May 14, 2013 at 4:09 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

              > ** > kortneearies commented: “I got thrown out of Hercules for yelling in > the theater. I was horrified from the moment they introduced him as the son > of Zeus and Hera. I wasn’t allowed to go to the movies with my parents for > a few years after that.” >

              1. Hagiographers and apologists for the abusive Olympian usurpers! Reject their retcons, cast down their temples, throw out that amorous swan, and return – yea, return oh my people – to the great and loving embrace of your rightful Titanic rulers!

                Why no, I haven’t had any stimulants this morning. Why do you ask?

              2. Odd, the really obvious gospel stuff is what made it watchable to me…. took it so far out of the storyline that it was just fun.

            2. YES! I’d have lent you support and covering fire. I was horrified with that JUST form the trailer and I’ve never watched it.
              And I ALMOST got thrown out of Shakespeare in love. After the second warning, I confined myself to sighing and rolling my eyes REALLY loudly at the errors.

              1. As far as I know nobody who was in the theater with me during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest complained when I burst out with, ‘Twit!’ as Keira Knightley’s character flapped around helplessly on the beach as the men swashed and buckled and the treasure chest is taken off…

            3. I don’t know if you’ve read the Percy Jackson series, but I will warn you that Athena has demigod children in it. Several books in, when Percy is going “Huh?” after someone observed that Athena was a virgin goddess, one of those children explains to him how it works. So, yes, there is an explanation.

                1. No. She is struck with admiration for some clever young man, and conceives the child mentally, and it’s born from her head, just as she was born from Zeus’s.

                  1. So Athena is a writer whose characters actually manifest in the world?

                    I wonder: is she pantser or plotter.

                    1. pantser, consider that. . . oops, the reason why it shows she’s a pantser is at the end of the first series and a spoiler at that. Let us just say that she is displeased by a turn of events that involves a daughter of hers.

              1. Uh oh, now I’m worried. They’re on my list because a friend of mine swears I’d like them. She’s also the friend who likes to go with me to stuff she knows will irritate me and watch me lecture anybody who will listen as to why it’s wrong. The whole giving birth from her head thing… Oh dear, I may have to read them just to see if I’m getting caught by a puckish sense of humor.

                1. He’s pretty accurate with the Greek mythology, even if he only rarely gets into the more exotic corners.

                  Now, John C. Wright’s Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, and Titans of Chaos — that gets into some odd corners of Greek mythology. Starting with your having to know some of their more exotic epithets to know the major gods’ names are accurate. (Though you can easily work out which god is which, )

        1. The subject of genre mixing you mentioned in the main essay: yeah, I keep running across old mystery book series here with art work that seems to suggest the novels are scary. That Agatha Christie puzzle novels will leave you sleepless and on the edge of your seat or something. Ultra gruesome Italian horror movies have a small pretense to being mysteries, and the slang term for them there is “Yellows,” because the favorite mystery/thriller line of novels there had yellow covers. There’s really very little horror/mystery mixing in printed English, some William Hope Hodgson his Carnaki the Ghost Finder series, Seabury Quinn, John Dixon Carr had neat supernatural mysteries in which the conclusion could be the supernatural was fake or the supernatural was real. Thousands of Horror/SF movies and maybe a dozen readable Horror/SF novels and two good anthologies of Horror/sf short fiction. Let’s see: “Puppet Masters,” “The Kraken Wakes,” Koontz’s “Phantoms,” “Blood Music” and “Psychlone” by Greg Bear, “The Midwich Cukoos”, darn little and many of them by the same few authors.

          1. Horor does not lend itself to the rational resolution that mysteries require. Collins’ _The Moonstone_ and Poe’s Dupin stories are horrors that resolve themselves to bizarre, but rational explanations.
            Some of Lovecraft’s stories are an attempt to unfold a mystery that turns into a many-tentacled monstrosity that costs everyone their sanity….but that’s what you get.
            Now, horror does seem to mix will with Film Noir style mysteries, since the idea is that the more you poke at something the worse of the world will be for it, but that is no reason to stop short of death. Michael Reaves had the Darkworld stories, and of course my favorite Zombie movie, _Dead Heat_ with Joe Piscopo and a cameo by Vincent Price was about pursuing vengance beyond the grave.

  16. As I’ve said before, it’s been stuck in the goth teen mood since at least World War I, reveling in how terrible things are an how there is no hope.

    The Daughter distainfully refers to that attitude Emo.

    1. That’s because she was born near or after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

      1. The goths I know disdain Emo, but then they are in their 40s and 50s and have outgrown the “mope around” phase. But then they’re history goths, so even the other local goths think they’re a bit Odd. Really cool and fantastic to hang out with and emulate, but Odd.

        1. Robert wears a shirt and tie every day (he SOMETIMES skips the tie on weekends) and dress pants. When it’s cold/evening he wears a fedora and he has overcoats, leather dusters and raincoats for varying weather.
          Goth’s insist that he’s one of them. This baffles all of us.

        2. History goths? As in “where were you when we sacked Rome?” type? I confess I’m not too familiar with the various shades besides Dream-style goth and Death-style perkigoth.

          1. When I ask girls with black makeup and black hair “Visigoth or Ostrogoth?” I just get the oddest stares …

            1. There was once a discussion as to what a proper goth name should be. I argued for Amalswentha or Thiudihad. I was ignored.

            2. Ooh, time to trot out this quote again!

              Ancient Goth: Member of a barbarian tribe that sacked Rome.
              Modern Goth: A vegetarian pretending to be a vampire.

          2. 🙂 “History Goths” are the ones who go all out for period costumes, sometimes just little bits, other times the full (in this case) 18th century costume, but in black and grey, with the usual black and white cosmetics. They also know a great deal about the Romantics, Gothic romances, that sort of thing. History Goths are not as common as other sub-types, as you can imagine.

            1. I believe that french gray, purple and red are allowed as well … at least I have seen it in the Japanese magazines dedicated to the subject.

  17. I had “The Raven” memorized at age 5. HPL came soon after.

    Actual quote (you may have read before) from one of my teachers:

    “An eight-year-old should *not* know what The Holocaust is — much less be able to work out the mathematics of it!” (Hey — he asked for a word problem, he got a word problem….)

    I never was a child, at least not mentally — that kid got eaten June 20, 1975. (Look up that date for details….)

  18. Sarah, your blog brought up some great memories of my father. He was a big reader and never restricted which books I could read. While he was more into westerns, I got into SF big time, but there was some sharing from time to time. We lived in Germany from when I was 12 – 15. There was no television in English for the first year or so, and books became a huge part of my entertainment. I have fond memories of walking to the PX every Saturday with my dad and brother where my dad would buy me a new book. And I felt so cool when my dad would come into my room and borrow my books. Great memories. Thanks.

    Oh, and in my house where two book worms got married and produced more book worms, we’ve never restricted what they could read. At times we’ve suggested they come talk to us if they have any questions, but we never said no. Teaching by example, they all love books to this day.

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