Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Nostalgia

Sacchi Green


Like Giselle, I’m currently on vacation, in my case in the White Mountains of NH where I have a cabin, and very slow dial-up internet access. The books around me tend to be trail guides and histories of women climbers and that sort of thing, but I also see Black Beauty and Tom Swift: Young Inventor and Brighty of the Grand Canyon (Brighty is a mule, as one might expect from Marguerite Henry, who also wrote Misty of Chincoteague.) If you think this sounds as though I have someone young here with me, you’d be guessing right. My seven-year-old granddaughter has her nose in a book much of the time, but she’s also enjoying playing/swimming in mountain streams and riding the Alpine Express with her father at the local ski resort, along with its other summertime offerings that mainly involve one kind of high-tech bouncing device or another.

All of which makes me nostalgic for the books of my childhood, and somewhat amused to recall the books of my adolescence. Horse stories, certainly, and dog stories, and what there was for strong girl stories; Little Women, Harriet the Detective, Nancy Drew (and every boy scout adventure book in the library, because there weren’t any equivalents for girls.) And nurse romances, and National Velvet, and the British Theatre Shoes, Skating Shoes, etc. series, moving along to Jane Austen and her less literary follower Georgette Heyer. By the time I was 14 or so, though, I was reading historical dramas with plenty of sex (for the times,) Horatio Hornblower, and Mika Waltari’s Egyptian-themed books, among others.

I worked shelving books and sweeping floors at our small local library, and had access to everything. The librarian was the wife of our church’s Minister, but broadminded; one day she called me aside to say that she knew my mother didn’t mind if I read from the adult section, but the mother of one of my friends had complained because I was bookmarking the spicier passages for my friends (who would never make it through the complete books.) That taught me a lesson, and when I found a real gem in the Hospital Guild Thrift Shop, The Sheik by Ethel M. Dell, I didn’t share it. The book was old by then—I’m old, but not old enough to remember the Rudolph Valentino movie version—but with the same sort of impact I imagine 50 Shades of Gray has today, with the added benefit of wild adventure. Not explicit sex by modern standards, but my imagination was quite equal to the challenge of extrapolation.

Eventually the bodice-ripper genre came along. Kathleen Woodiwiss was a pioneer there. Historical flamboyance and storms of lust. I vowed that I’d never bother with sexless romances again. Then by college I’d discovered Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Fanny Hill. I knew I was going to be an erotica author someday. A friend and I trying sending stories to men’s magazines, with no luck--my rejection was fairly positive, but said I made the male protagonist look like too much of a sexist pig, which I’d thought was just what they wanted.

“Someday” turned out to take a long time coming. Procrastination and raising a family got in the way. I finally started out with science fiction and fantasy, and about the time I saw opportunities for publishing erotica I’d begun selling a few stories to anthologies for kids, and thought that might be the main way I’d go, so I used a pseudonym for the sexy stuff—which then pretty much took over. I keep thinking that now that my granddaughter is such a voracious reader, I should get back to writing for kids and YA, but it hasn’t happened yet.

As to what I’ve been reading lately, well, I have to admit that most of my reading (aside from social media) has been of books I’m supposed to review for the Erotica Revealed website, or have been asked to review or blurb by their authors, or am reading as research for stories. It’s been interesting sometimes going outside my comfort zone while still acknowledging the different parameters of some other readers’ comfort zones—not a good way to put it, though; to paraphrase the song, “What’s comfort got to do with it?”

Back to the present moment. It’s about time to go out for ice cream, as I promised the not-so-little imp princess. She’s up to my chin now, at seven! Better get moving writing stories her mother will let her read.

   

 

12 comments:

  1. i love the idea of your bookmarking spicy passages for friends as a youngster. great post, Sacchi. i have an urge to write YA & children's books myself. reading was such an essential part of that time. so lovely that your granddaughter is a reader at 7.

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  2. What a fun ramble back through time, Sacchi. I wonder if we were all bookworms. I certainly was.

    I never was lucky enough to find a copy of The Sheik, nor was I really exposed to bodice rippers, but Ian Fleming provided plenty of titillation during high school.

    I kind of envy you having a grand-daughter with whom you can discuss the delights of reading. Though I don't regret not having kids, I'd really like to have had grand kids.

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    1. Having kids is wearing, but grandkids are fun, at least at this point.

      When they left today she was reading The Pushcart Wars, which they'd found at the local library booksale. She'd generally rather read to herself than be read to, which is handy, but I'd like to be re-reading that one with her.

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    2. I want grandchildren too! That's why I always date people who have children from previous (or, when I was younger, current) marriages. I'm a man with a plan. heh

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  3. It's always interesting to find how others found this genre through whatever reading history. My dad introduced me to typical boy's series--Pioneers, civil war, YA adventure. My love of the outdoors led me to Field and Stream, Outdoor Life mags. Reading was never boring for me like it was for other kids. Reading is something I did so as NOT to be bored.

    I too do much of my reading and critiquing on line, (I'm Flasher editor @ ERWA). It does cut into simple pleasure reading time, but it also lets me take the temperature of what's happening and exposes me to writing at all levels.

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  4. When I thought about books I loved when I was young, the first one that came to mind was "The Secret Garden." I think I loved it because I found it puzzling. I'd like to take another look at it now, with a better grasp on the social mores of the period.

    There were a few Quebecois series for middle school readers I loved. I tried to track down the "Sophie, l'apprentie-sorciere" books that I mentioned in my very first post here at The Grip, but they don't seem to be available for sale anywhere. So sad. They were hilarious, about a witch-in-training who was a tomboy and a klutz, and couldn't get anything right.

    In English, there was a book called Howliday Inn about a cat and dog (the ones from Bunnicula) in a haunted house (?) that I must have read a million times (and can't for the life of me remember what it was about, apparently).

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    1. Gisele, The Secret Garden was one of my very favorites, too, and I re-read it many times. The very early part in India (with all the adults dying of the plague) was confusing to me at first, and I don't think my granddaughter is ready for it yet, but I hope to interest her in it later. And Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, although her father was never into those when he was a kid. (He was reading Tolkien when he was eight, so I hope she'll get into those. The movies may help or hurt, I don't know which.) I really loved books that took me into detailed worlds, historical, fantastical, or just geographically distant.

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  5. Does anyone remember Enid Blyton? An English writer of children's books she wrote dozens of stories - The Famous Five series and many more. My sister was an avid reader of them and I would read them after - they were really for girls, so my gayness showed up rather quickly. One character Georgina liked to be called George - a budding lesbian for sure. Can't imagine what they would read like nowadays.

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    1. I'm embarrassed to admit I read "The Baby-sitters Club" books in the late 80s. My sister read the Sweet Valley books and I judged the hell out of her for it. heh.

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    2. Giselle, est-ce que c'est ça? Le personnage ne s'appelle pas Sophie, mais l'écrivain est Anne-Sophie [Silvestre], et la description indique qu'Elodie est une "apprentie sorcière."

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    3. Looks like it was published in 2006. Trust me, I'm not THAT young!

      Jeremy, you (and everybody else) will be delighted to know that I stumbled across Sophie fanfic that I wrote when I was nine, and I've posted it on my blog: http://donutsdesires.blogspot.ca/2013/07/the-best-book-youll-ever-read-and-its.html

      Drop whatever you're doing and read it. Yes, there are pictures. And yes it's in French, but I translated it (with commentary).

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  6. Sacchi, thanks for starting this great thread about the books we loved when we were young. Giselle, did you ever read the "Madeleine" books when you were a child (or had them read to you) or the books about Babar the elephant? My mom read the English translations to me. Madeleine is a little girl in boarding school in Paris, & Babar becomes king of the elephants in some African country, prob. a former French colony.
    Enid Blyton didn't seem to cross the Atlantic when I was young, but I saw her books everywhere when I lived in England for a year at age 22. (I thought I was too old to read them then.)
    I was introduced to the novels of E. (Edith) Nesbit by a grade-school teacher with good taste in children's lit. There is a trilogy, starting with Five Children and It (& I was delighted when the movie version was shown on TV). I think Nesbit was contemporary with the author of The Secret Garden. I'll never forget Nesbit's phoenix character who befriends the children, but then he has to leave them to build his own funeral pyre when he has reached the end of his 500-year lifespan. (A new phoenix emerges from the ashes, but I don't think he's the same.)

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