Friday, March 7, 2014

My Journey: A Long Journey!? Good or Bad!?

Where to start where to start?  Bear in mind, any of you purveyors of this post, I like most books, and can talk about most anything in most of those.

Up until 6th grade, my repertoire of “reads” included mediocre books at best.  If I can remember correctly, I remember one series called Boxcar Children, and another called Animorphs.  The first one was about some kids that lived, of all places, in an abandoned train boxcar.  Maybe it was two brothers and two sisters, but the only things that I remember are that they were family, they were children, and they lived in a train boxcar. 

Animorphs… now that was a guilty pleasure read for me even a bit of the way into middle school.
 That was a series about kids, that I think were somewhere around the puberty stage in life, that could change into any animal that they had touched.  I think they could even turn into a few different aliens, which might have been important at some point.  I loved this series because these kids used these forms to fight a parasitic alien brain slug race.  And these aren’t the kinds of brain slugs that would leach onto your skull from the outside.  No no, these slugs were much more invasive.  I suppose it would be important to note that these kids were given their power from some alien race that could do the same thing.  I think an adolescent of their race even joined them at some point.  Long story short, it was fun for me.  I never read the end of this series that spanned more books than I could remember, but it would be hard to go back and read something from either of these series. 

Maybe I have just moved past the kinds of books that have large print, and that I could probably finish reading in two hours.  But if anybody with young children ever reads this narrative, I would say give those two series a try for your kids.  And get them excited for book fairs when they show up.  I LOVED book fairs.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then?  I cannot say” (Tolkein).

 Most of what we read in school was nothing special or involved.  I cannot remember anything from a younger age… at all.  That should tell you how unimportant much of what I read before was.  My literary journey probably started in the 6th grade, or between it and 5th grade, when I went to California to spend a couple of weeks at my aunt’s condo in Del Mar.  Maybe most people would take their relative to the beach or something.  And, yes, I did go to the beach, and the Wild Animal Park, and the Scripps Aquarium, and large Monet Exhibit.  I did a lot in California over the course of two different summers, but I also spent time at some middle school were my aunt taught a class for some remedial subject.  The fact that she was a teacher was probably the biggest reason for me reading a lot during my summer break.  And what book did my aunt hand to me?  Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the series.  If I remember correctly, I actually read that before reading The Hobbit.  Granted, I had listened to a very condensed version of The Hobbit on an old record player.

Tolkein is not something a child usually reads.  That is sort of a point of pride for or with me.  Like a few of my friends, I am happy to say I have been reading at a college level since I was 12 at least, if you could believe different standardized tests I have had to take over the years.  Understanding the overall story of the Lord of the Rings books is not extremely difficult.  Understanding all of the detail, and symbolism, is.  Keeping interested in a book that goes to great lengths to described anything, everything and everyone is difficult for  most younger people.  But this was a big step in my literary journey as it was.  This is the first lengthy novel/series that I chose to read.

By the way, how many authors can say that they have created such a rich backstory/background like Tolkein did with Lord of the Rings?  Even though I have not read it, The Silmarillion is basically an encyclopedia of Lords of the Rings.  Tolkein even created his own language that was given to the elves in his story.  All kids have played at making their own secret language, but to come up with something as complete as that is insane.  This man delved far into the whole milieu aspect of writing.  Of course, nobody could hold a candle to TH White’s A Once and Future King.  And of course, I am talking about the abridged version.  But, before think this is a good think.  Read the book.  I haven’t read it since somewhere around 8th or 9th grade, but it went on… and on…and on… and on… and on… forever… and ever… and on some more.  Maybe my young mind exaggerated, but I felt like something of 80 pages was devoted to describing the land and surroundings at one point.  Tolkien did that somewhat, with poems as well interestingly enough.  But you could feel the plot progress bit by bit.  White’s book wasn’t bad, but it was very very hard to keep interested in it.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs whetstones, if it is to keep it’s edge” (Martin).

The other major point in my literary beginning is when I had surgery in the 8th grade to get a shard of glass out of my arm.  Just after surgery, I was sick and could not sleep.  My parents gave me a book to read by George RR Martin called Game of Thrones.  The above quote comes from that book, the first in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, if I remember correctly.  And if I remember even better, I am pretty sure that was Tyrion Lannister talking to a bastard child/almostman named Jon Snow.  

To any who do not know of this book, or the overall series, it has spawned a successful series on HBO that is about to start its 4th season.  And if you have not ever watched any of the series, the work they put into the production is staggering.  I do have to warn about content in the book and tv series.  Quite a bit of it can be graphic, rude, and crude depending on which character point of view you currently are experiencing.  Anyway, this was a complicated book with complex themes involving morality, drive, desire and dreams.  But what I loved about this book was how Martin was able to write several different points of view that were all different.  Not many authors do that right.  And his character points of view are believable.  He can write their flaws. 

As an example, one of the characters named Cersei, sister to the above mentioned Tyrion, thinks of herself as being as strong as any man in being able to lead.  She feels her mind is sharp, and that she can see any problem.  Other people will see her as a fool, oft time madwoman, and a jealous mother/ jealous woman that does not want to be replaced.  She sees things around her as hers by right, and doesn’t feel remorse for what she has done, or what she isn’t doing for the people under her.  She is somebody that you are meant to hate at parts, but I love that I hate her.  She is memorable.  That is something all author’s should strive for, memorable characters.

I have been looking for good books to read constantly since that point.  I will continue searching for books for the rest of my life.  Not all of them will be high quality, as shown by my reading a vast amount of Star Wars novels, but I will always keep reading.


  1. Richard, I loved this. I love that you detail your journey through books you've read as a child (confession: I also loved the Animorph series while growing up), and it's true that some books are just guilty pleasures. I'm considering reading Game of Thrones, but I'm afraid of there being some racy material, as I've heard that that is very common in A Song of Fire and Ice. Is this true?

    Also, Tolkien is brilliant. That's all.

    1. It is true. I love the series, but I am probably not the best example to follow there. Heh, I would probably be willing to read through and (redact?)/cover the bad parts for you.

  2. It's eery how similar our posts are. The Hobbit was the first "big kid" book I ever read and it pulled me right in. I read it around the same time you read The Fellowship of the Ring. I am thinking of exploring the descriptive nature of Tokien's writing and Alice's use of illustrations. It will be interesting to explore the way Tolkien included maps, too, like the one you included.

    1. This reminds me of an important distinction in writing between telling your audience, or showing your audience. Through Alice, you are shown through pictures in part. Tolkein, through deep narratives.