Saturday, April 14, 2012

What the Genres Taught Me: Or Tried To Anyway

Everything we experience shapes us. That includes the stuff we read. I got to thinking recently of what the books I read in my youth taught me, or tried to teach me. I thought I’d analyze it by genres, which is often the way I think about my reading. Let’s see if your experiences differed.

Westerns: (Example: Louis L’Amour: To Tame A Land). Taught me about being honorable, about standing up for what you believe in and what is right. Taught me to yearn for natural vistas and to enjoy a night out under the stars.

Y/A fiction: Animals stories: (Example: Walter Farley: The Black Stallion). Taught me about the bonds that are possible between humans and animals. Taught me to respect the strength and courage of our animal companions, and indeed of all animals. Taught me to see animals, not as humans, but as unique beings in their own right.

Science fiction: (Example: Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles). Taught me about wonder, about the glories of strange landscapes, and about the nature of humanity’s fears of the unknown, and our abilities to adapt to that unknown. Taught me about the beauty of language to express what no one has ever actually seen or experienced.

Fantasy: (Example: Robert E. Howard: The Conan stories). Taught me about being independent minded, about not following the herd just because that’s “the way it’s always been done.” Taught me to think about the things I was told rather than accept them blindly. Also taught me about honor and about establishing one’s own sense of ethics.

Sports stories: (Example: Joe Arichbald: Hard Nosed Half Back). Taught me about getting up one more time than I’m knocked down. Taught me about perseverance, about preparing yourself for your chance rather than just waiting for luck to find you.

There are other genres I read. Maybe I’ll talk about them later. But this is enough for one blog post. I’m sorry I’ve been absent so long. Last week was, to put it mildly, “full.” Lana had her tonsils taken out, which from what the doctor said appears to be the source of her cancer. There is still the issue in the lymph node but we are supposed to see him next week about that. I’ll keep you informed.

In the meantime, what did your reading teach you?


Lisa said...

I read love stories of Mills and Boons, and they taught me the guy is always a six footer and much older.

BernardL said...

My experiences are nearly identical to yours. I would specifically mention one that really juiced me up - 'Something Wicked This Way Comes'. My brother Paul was only seventeen months younger. He was a towhead, very light skin while I was dark. The two boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, were so much like my brother and I, it was the first novel I convinced Paul to read. I was fourteen when I bought it and Paul thirteen, nearly the same ages as the characters. When I read the first chapter to him he was hooked on that one and all my collection. Writing and characters meant something more after that.

I pray the checkup goes well.

Adventuresfantastic said...

Bradbury, of course. The beauty of language and how a short story can have a huge impact.

Raymond Chandler. Sometimes one lone man can make a difference for justice. If you're encountering opposition, you might be doing something right.

Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities. The importance of sacrificing for others.

Poul Anderson's future history. Sometimes small actions can have long term consequences, both good and bad.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Thanks for the update on Lana. I'll keep praying for you.

Deka Black said...

First of all. Glad to hear news about Lana. Hope all is going the best way possible for her.

Deka Black said...

Oops, sorry,i forgot to say what my readings teached me!

As you, Robert E. Howard teached me the same thing as you: to think about the things i was told.

Michael Moorcock (mostly the Eternal Champion cycle),to search equilibrium and peace. Also, that sometimes we must suffer and endure to achieve our goals.

In sci-fi... Jack Vance, (mostly his Planet of Adventure tetralogy) teached using the brain to find a solution to my problems.

Travis Cody said...

I like this essay. I've never really thought of my reading in these kinds of terms.

Best wishes to you and Lana as you continue on this journey together.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, my best wishes and prayers for Lana's continued recovery. I can't recall as many genres as you have but the wild west SUDDEN series by Oliver Strange influenced me a lot in my youth. James Green, alias Sudden, the Texas outlaw, is hounded for crimes he never committed. His only crime is that he is the fastest draw in the land. The injustice doesn't stop Green from leading a life of honesty, principles, fearlessness, and compassion, fighting for the underdog in all his fifteen adventures. He could have gone the other way. If comic-books count, then Georges 'Herge' Remi TINTIN, the boy reporter from Belgium, taught me that age and size have nothing to do with pursuing one's goals even if there's a bunch of hoodlums waiting at the other end.

laughingwolf said...

glad to hear lana's making good progress, finally!

pretty much similar to your experience, charles, except i rarely read about sports... though i did partake in many, as a kid

faves then still are: horror/fantasy/sf/mythology/folk tales, mostly

also kids stuff, to ya/outdoor adventures/nature/science/music/first aid, and many more...

Anonymous said...

Charles this is fascinating, since I have just reviewed your great In The Language Of Scorpions and I recommend it to everyone. There is an old world feel to your writing without it being dated. You have absorbed the lessons of childhood and seem to have a warrior ethic in the sense of a great honour. Genres need to be mixed, thank you for doing so.

Cloudia said...

yes, reading makes us writers. . .

I was imitating HG Wells in elementary school, Ha Ha!

Wonderful, pithy post. Perhaps part of your writing-teaching?

Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } (°>

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hope that was the source of the cancer! Prayers for you next week.
I'd have to say both science fiction and fantasy have taught me about honor.

Charles Gramlich said...

oceangirl, Come to think of it, they’re mostly that tall in westerns too.

Bernard Lee DeLeo, I loved “Something Wicked.” Great story, and one I thought they did justice too with the movie!

Keith, yeah, Bradbury left me forever with a love of the short story. Poul Anderson too. Loved a lot of his stuff. The Dominic Flandry series.

Deka Black, thanks, man. Moorcock definitely taught me about seeking balance. Good one.

Travis Cody, thanks, man. I often say I tend to look up to fictional people more than real people.

Prashant C. Trikannad, I’ve not read the Sudden series but I’ve heard good things about them. Last time I looked they were very expensive to get. Age and size. Yes, I learned things about those issues too.

laughingwolf, I read a lot of football stories at a certain age. Not other kinds of sports much. A little about racing.

Richard Godwin, I agree. Genres have to be smeared over and through each other very often to get the best results. Glad you enjoyed “Scorpions.” Man. Thanks for the review!

Cloudia, I actually discovered other SF writers before Wells, because of the nature of our Library. But I later read pretty much all his stuff. Very good.

Alex J. Cavanaugh, I think those are good lessons about honor.

nephite blood spartan heart said...

I'm thinking of that sense of wonder that reading gave me, the feeling of the world being bigger than what I knew in my own small town-and of course the heroism and courage from all my favorite books, from Twain to L'Amour to Hemingway, Tolkien and Howard.

All the best for you and Lana

the walking man said...

I know reading about algebra never allowed me to learn it. Reading in general though was escape from learning for me. Although I came to pretty much the same life conclusions as you did Charles I had to have living outside of the book to kick me there.

Best to Lana, one step at a time let us just believe that the best possible outcome, her complete recovery is now in her reach if they have identified and removed the source.

Be Calm.

David Cranmer said...

Parker's Spenser novels taught me to live by a code of honor. Very influential to a fourteen-year-old.

Charles Gramlich said...

David J., yes, the opening of vistas, the sense of cool and exotic things being in the world.

Mark, I picked up a lot of facts from reading too, but it was more a shaping of mindset, I think. Yes, both Lana and I are feeling better at the moment about things.

David Cranmer, the honor thing is coming up pretty big in the comments. I've often thought it was pretty important. I wonder if the female readers picked up other things and if we young males were particularly attuned to honor.

pattinase (abbott) said...

With these genres, what I learned came from movies rather than books. Or from TV shows, which in the late fifties and sixties showed a lot of westerns, science fiction and fantasy. I have only begun to read some of them now.

sage said...

Your exercise has given me much to ponder in my own readings. Prayers continued for Lana!

Steve Malley said...

Maybe it's just that it's early, or that I'm only on my second cup of coffee, but right about now I'm wondering if I ever learned a damn thing at all ;)

I really hope Lana's doing better!

Randy Johnson said...

You summed things up nicely. We read, and have read, a lot of the same stuff. Sports was mostly when i was very young, haven't read it in years.

I'm sure Lana will be fine. You guys remain in my thoughts.

Golden Eagle said...

I agree with your thoughts on Science Fiction. That genre has also taught me about the power of the individual--a single person can make a significant impact on society.

Interesting post!

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, I learned a lot from STar Trek.

Sage, thanks, man.

Steve Malley, the fact you question it means you've probably learned something.

Randy, yeah, I haven't read a sports fiction story in a long time. I do read some nonfiction stuff about the Saints and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Golden Eagle, yes. Farenheit 451 comes to mind for that.

G. B. Miller said...

I think that for me, it was pretty basic.

Reading taught me that there was a whole other world in which you weren't judged by who you were or what you looked like or even how you interacted with others.

Frankly, reading brought me peace of mind and allowed to face whatever pettiness it threw at me head on with a smile and a sarcastic wit.

Ron Scheer said...

I was a reader as a kid, but I don't think I learned much of anything from the genre and YA novels I read. Sent to parochial school, I probably got the most from Bible stories. I still find myself thinking in terms of them.

Erik Donald France said...

You covered the ground nicely. Not all the same titles, but the same themes and overlap.

Also had some off the wall books that influenced me that I think are still useful, such as David J. Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big, my folks had it. I liked it so much, finally tracked down an audio book version and have been enjoying the author's old school wisdom about "can do" attitudes, peppered with some newer examples someone else must have put in later.

Oscar Case said...

Taught me to love books and great stories or even some bad ones.

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the post, the replies, and news on you and Lana.
I'll be the duffer this round.

Charles Gramlich said...

G.B., it seems that reading has done very different things for many of us.

Ron, I hadn't really thought of that but I guess I did learn a lot from Bible stories. Some of it was pretty weird, come to think of it.

Erik, other than history, I never discovered many nonfiction books as a kid. Certainly not many that had any kind of personal growth element to them.

Oscar, we all have our favorite 'bad' ones, I imaigne

M.M., glad you enjoyed.

Greg said...

great post. couldn't agree more about Bradbury inspiring wonder. between The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked, and A Sound of Thunder, he's probably inspired more wonder than any other author.

Good luck this week.

Michelle's Spell said...

Reading taught me how to plot, especially Jim Thompson. It's always been my fundamental weakness so I did a crash course on genre for myself which improved my plotting skills dramatically. Along with Jackie Susann and Judith Rossner teaching me how to use camp. VC Andrews, unfortunately, influenced me beyond all reason (read Flowers in the Attic in third grade) and now I always lean toward an incest element. Oh those early books!

ivan said...

Seems the older novels taught you how to behave.

Postmodern novels seem to tell you how to behave badly...At least that's my view of novels written since W.W. II.

Jessica Ferguson said...

What a great post. Really made me think. Unfortunately, I've been a herd-follower for most of my life. And because of it, I have way too much passive-aggressiveness, and that sooooooo unattractive!
Praying for Lana.

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg, agreed.

Michelle, I'm ashamed to say I've never read Flowers in the attic, though I have it around the house somewhere. I need to get to it.

Ivan, I'd say that was pretty accurate.

Jess, I think we all have a bit of that in us.