Geeky Reading

I’ve been thinking about this question of things you’d have been embarrassed to be noticed reading as a kid or a teenager from another direction. Are there any books I read/loved/obsessed over back then that I am embarrassed for my younger self for reading looking back? And I find that there are.*

I would have to say that the two Jim Morrison poetry collections LEAP immediately to mind, toted proudly for several months.** I have a strong memory of falling asleep on the bus to a basketball game with Wilderness in my lap.

In general, I’m still okay with my taste in high school. It being mainly Latin American fiction and Jeanette Winterson and Salmon Rushdie. But I also read a lot of questionable serialized novels when I was younger; Sweet Valley High, anyone?

You guys have any of these?

(Mr. Rowe, we all know about your novelization problem, so ‘fess up.)

*Not that I would take any of them back, because they’re now part of my readerly and writerly DNA, which I’m pretty much happy with.
**I feel positively cleansed by this admission. And yet also shamed.

20 thoughts on “Geeky Reading”

  1. Mostly it’s the covers, though, isn’t it?
    In sixth-seventh grade I was truly obsessed with the novels of Piers Anthony, I wrote him a huge long fan letter & he actually wrote me back a really great letter too tho by the time I got it I had sort of grown out of his fandom in that way you do. But he put my name in the acknowledgments of one of his books which was very exciting. However I think that the best of his books really probably are pretty good. In spite of naked ladies on the cover.
    The ones I was most ashamed of reading at the time were the historical saga/romance-type books, I didn’t read many but occasionally would find one on my mom’s shelf and read it in shame & hope nobody spotted me. I still feel slightly ashamed being seen reading very girl-meets-boy type books in public, tho I feel that this is irrational and immature…

  2. I was the most embarassed about reading romances in public in HS, it’s true. I still feel a little guilty sometimes, but now I divide them into two groups–the trashy romances, particularly the harlequin/silhouette imprints with bright red covers, and the decent chick-lit titles that I also read. Those, I’ll actually discuss with people.
    I’m a little embarassed by the extent of my McCaffery Love from back in the day, as my friends and I were about 12 seconds away from total obsession. I actually remember making a concious choice to back off from the books, as it felt like something I could let take over my life (first the fanfiction, and then before you know it i’d be at cons in full garb complete with the lizards.) And once I went to cons and saw the people who hadn’t made that choice, I was glad I did. But still, I see nothing wrong with the books, just with the depth of liking them. 🙂

  3. When I was thirteen years old, I went through a peculiar infatuation with Peter Benchley’s JAWS. I had a library booksale mass market edition that for some darkly symbolic reason I kept in any empty Kleenex box — for a while it was the only book I read…and read…and read. Hooper’s goofball dirty talk with Ellen Brody (“I was thinking about that chicken…talk about a tightie”) began a longterm association with illicit sex and sudden, grinding death.

  4. I don’t know about this. I don’t really have any shame with the books or films I once liked (but now don’t) — in large part because, however preposterous they were, they led me to other books, which in turn allowed me to hone my own artistic and cultural sensibilities. I suspect this is because I’m often interested in why people ONCE liked something but then turned around to dismiss it or, in Gwenda’s case here, to feel ashamed by it.
    For what it’s worth, to Gwenda and others who might feel shame, I, for one, am not going to scoff about this. We often turn to lesser art because there is something about it that strikes us. A real good example of this is Elliot Perlman’s SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY. I think it’s a kind of meh novel. But I also enjoy its unflailing attempts to be something LARGER than it can be, something MORE than Perlman is capable of writing of.
    So long as you’re constructive about how you approach books and recognize your own shifting sensibilities, I see no reason to be ashamed of what you like to read.

  5. I agree 100 percent, Ed (see *), but this is kind of a “if I knew then what I know now” thing. I probably would choose not to think that Jim Morrison was a poet god, however briefly. I don’t want to change that I did, but I can look back and cringe at the ernestness with which I read that stuff. On the other hand, Morrison was what led me to the Beats, if I remember correctly, and I think I read them at precisely the right age. Early enough to appreciate them, not late enough to try and refashion my own voice in their image.
    Man, I didn’t know those McCaffrey books existed, but if I had of, I’d be right there with you guys. I have no doubt.

  6. Oh, but Anne McCaffrey much as we might snobbishly think better now is really a writer of very great talent indeed! And was an important innovator, I think; I always think of her and Marion Zimmer Bradley both writing really quite wonderful books at their best, bringing the complexity of character development & serious treatment of social issues and stuff and feminism to a science-fiction inflected fantasy–I do think the Harper Hall books stand up better than the other Pern books–but I will stand up for Anne McCaffrey any day. There is no shame! And I did rather love all those other ones of hers too, the Ship Who Sings ones and Restoree of course and really every word she wrote–the short stories–god, this is wonderfully taking me back to the days when I, you know, spent my hard-earned babysitting money buying mass-market paperbacks at the B. Dalton at the mall (and I got a real kick a few years ago going to a book party for a novel published by Del Rey, those words were an ICON to me!).
    All right, that’s my fannish rant for the evening! But it’s funny, that discussion Justine linked to about corsets and conventions has already had me musing on the whole question of outfits. I am going to have a post about this at my blog soon…

  7. I’m actually really sad I missed reading them. Another list I’ve made in my head before is books I wish I’d read at 13, etc.
    Ann McCaffrey was being honored by SFWA the year Christopher was up for a Nebula and she was very, very classy. Her grandkids silly stringed her and it was HILARIOUS. And Christopher valiantly took her a chair at one point when she was getting a bit wobbly.

  8. Gwenda, you will probably not want to read the main Pern ones, but do please read the Dragonsong-Dragonsinger-Dragondrums trilogy, they are wonderfully good young-adult fiction!

  9. I’m not ashamed of anything I read. HUGE fan of The Baby-Sitters Club, which is something I recently wrote a few pieces about, and I got a great response from readers, talking all about their favorite BSC characters and memories.
    I also posted a booklist of favorite juvenile series from the 80s and early 90s. Fun times.

  10. Well, Niall, maybe not! But you haven’t lived until you’ve played a kender in an AD&D Dragonlance campaign.
    (I know, let’s just turn this into a game of how low can you go…)

  11. jennifer (aka literaticat)

    hmm – i read the hell out of SVH & BSC – loved them. but during the same years I also read Jane Eyre and Treasure Island and Mark Twain and all the “good stuff”. Not ashamed!
    I am a teensy bit ashamed of my “Beat Pome” phase (grade 9), my “angry gay hustler & french bastard lit” phase (grade 10), my “Carrying Around Swann’s Way” phase (grade 11) and my “post-structuralist-Barthesian nightmare” phase (grade 12). But the shame I feel isn’t because the books are BAD, it’s due to my own woefully young & pretentious behaviour.

  12. Jennifer — YES! Exactly. I’m not advocating shame here (I don’t believe anyone should be ashamed of their reading), I’m advocating embarassment at how seriously I took Jim Morrison’s poetry, or your own version of that. But only in a purely non-real way, just for fun.

  13. I admit regret over thinking that whole “Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran thing was more sacred than blessed communion wafers. I can’t look at one now without wincing. Granted I was 12 or so at the time.

  14. this has come up before, so i’m prepared: i’m horribly ashamed of loving the first four books of burroughs’ tarzan series when i was ten. my sister and i spent our first summer in ohio at the local public library and they had, like, ALL the tarzan books there.
    only a few years later i was horrified by how racist they were, and scant years after, by how sexist. come to think of it, that was a pretty indicative intro to central ohio.

  15. I read an amazing amount of movie tie in novels from about 7th grade through 10th grade and recall thinking that the ET novel was so much better than the movie and that Spielberg should have adhered closer to the source material.
    But my real obsession was with the Seth Speaks books that I found at the used bookstore down the street from our house. Man, I wanted my own Spirit Guide, just like the one that weird lady from the 70s had.
    Oh, and I read a lot of books that had titles like The Exterminator: #450

  16. Tragically, I apparently have no shame. I like McCaffrey. I have not read her in a while. But the dragons rocked for me. I read tons of scifi. Maybe I just did not know I should be ashamed? Heinlien kind of creeped me out. If you are a young girl reading his stuff, well the girls keep getting younger, the men keep getting older, you reach a point where you are going, Eeew. And that is why I stopped reading him, ulitmately. But I wasn’t embarased.
    About the only book I ever found embarassing was a book called something like “Molly Did” that a friend’s mother insisted she and I both read. It was a tale of woe about what happened to young girls who had sex, had a really bad cover and obvious title, and some guy made fun of me on the bus for that book. Most books, I could have defended. That one? Not really.

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