I think that’s a perfectly good word. Of course, I’m up to my eyes in Sudafed and Benadryl, so that might be having an effect.

The topic for today, class, is why books you thought were simply splendid twenty years ago are completely awful today. I’m not talking about thinking Nancy Drew is the height of literature when you’re eight and then trying to read it at forty-eight and realizing she was a Barbie doll who surrounded herself with sychophants and bearded for Ned Nickerson. I mean the stuff you read as adults, those of you who have twenty years of adulthood under your belt. Case in point: Fletch.

If you who follow PopD, you know we did a podcast on Fletch the movie on Monday. We actually watched it on Saturday because Alastair needs time to turn it from two Audacity tracks into a podcast, taking out my wheezing and sneezing and the places where we stopped to talk about something else. (I haven’t heard it yet. Is the discussion we had on what a fortnight is still in there, with the crack I made about Alastair being the only human being I know who talks with footnotes? If that’s still in there, the guy’s a saint.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Fletch. I bitched long and bitterly about what Chevy Chase did to a great character, the wily, iconoclastic I. M. Fletcher, switching from smart and dedicated to a buffoon who sticks straws up his nose, and I believe I waxed eloquent on how good the books were. Then the podcast ended, and I treated myself to a re-read.

What kind of idiot was I in the seventies? Oh, wait, that’s when I was 21 and got married. So there’s been some growth since then. But honest to god, the guy sleeps with a fifteen-year-old girl who’s hooking for drug money. Never even attempts to save her. Really, I’m not a prude, but that’s statutory rape, you bastard. I read the second one, Confess, Fletch, and it has not improved with time, although Francis Xavier Flynn is still a keeper. Then I read the first Flynn book. Still liked the character, kinda, but the plot was frustrating as all hell. And that’s when I gave up on Gregory McDonald, who used to be on my keeper shelf.

Okay, so some time has passed since 1975 when the book came out, but not that much. What happened? Have things changed that much that people didn’t blink at the sex-with-the-fifteen-year-old then? The Grand Sophy is marred by anti-Semitism which is definitely a product of the time, so I just skip that part because the rest is still good. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, so it is no longer my favorite Heyer. The Nero Wolfe books hold up, thank you very much, but Ellery Queen is damn near unreadable. I’m afraid to go back to Andre Norton, I loved her so.

I’m non-plussed. (Great word. I must have gotten it from Alastair.) Has this happened to you? What books? Why?

Discuss while I go get more Sudafed and Benadryl. Next topic: Allergies. WHY????????

186 thoughts on “Bibliamnesia

  1. I read the first Fletch a few years ago and remember really liking it, clearly blocked out the statutory rape. Read Confess, Fletch more recently and enjoyed it, but was surprised by the fact that Fletch didn’t actually solve the mystery.

    This problem is something I have with Agatha Christie. I started reading her stuff in junior high and I loved it. Now I look at Death on the Nile, which used to be one of my favorites, and think, “Seriously? NO ONE KILLS PEOPLE THAT WAY.” Now it’s all I can think about when I read her novels (I just had Murder at the Vicarage this week and had the same reaction). I got really into Dashiell Hammett, JD Robb, John Sandford and Lisa Gardner in high school and undergrad and I think I’ve lost my taste for that overly-complicated, totally improbable British murder plot. Don’t even get me started on that damn plant in Busman’s Honeymoon. I am still in love with Witness for the Prosecution (the play and by extension the movie), because I find the character of the wife really interesting, and I love that the solution to the murder was realistic.

    I am going to give Georgette Heyer’s mysteries a try in spite of this, because I love her romances with a passion. Speaking of Grand Sophy, it wasn’t the anti-Semitism that gave me trouble (I just gave it a pass on the basis of period setting and her time), it was the fact that they were first cousins. I know it was the Regency, but ick – I had to work at getting past it the first time I read it.

    1. I love Witness for the Prosecution (movie version) too. I have only read two Agatha Christie books. Ten Little Indians when I was younger, and 4:50 from Paddington just last year. I felt cheated by TLI, but everyone I talked to assured me that I hadn’t been cheated as a reader, and I’ve meant to pick it up again to see if I had been cheated or not.

      1. I still have good memories of Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None, but I haven’t read it in years. I still love The Pale Horse, Sparkling Cyanide and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? WDTAE? in particular, which also has a very nice romantic subplot. The romantic subplot was never one of Chrisite’s strengths, but she pulls it off in that one. I also enjoy pretty much all her short stories, and re-read them often. The Mysterious Mr. Quinn collection is great. I seem to have the issue mostly with her full length novels – usually the Poirots or Marples.

    2. Be warned, I loved all the Heyer romances then tried the mysteries. For me, they clunked, plus the casual racism and class biases of the time were very apparent. Then I went back to the romances and started seeing resonances of the problems with the mysteries in those.

      I now find some of the Agatha Christie novels simplistic, but still reread occasionally. Plus, you can spot some of the characters at English horse trials and agricultural shows. Burghley Horse Trials – now there was an eye opener.

        1. The mysteries got me seeing meanness, the clearest example I can think of being in Frederica. I loved that the first time round, laughed out loud in places. Then read it again after my flirtation with the mysteries and felt that the hero and heroine were unnecessarily dismissive and disdainful of other characters.

          I’m struggling to articulate what it is that jars – something to do with ingroups and outgroups. I generally avoid historical romances – especially Regencies – these days as I think they paint a rose-tinted view of the past and ignore the rampant snobbery and rigid social structures of the time.

    3. I enjoy the Heyer mysteries, too. Though I’m thinking back a bit so perhaps I’d run into that what “was I thinking” problem . . . still, I know when I read Heyer, I’m going to encounter class issues and the anti-Semitism in The Grand Sophy is painful but the rest of the book great fun. The Tailsman Ring has one of my absolute favorite Heyer heroines (Sarah Thane) because she seems so real and so capable of having a good time and falling in love without ever losing her intelligence or her enjoyment of the absurd. Mysteries I liked: Envious Casca (love the murderer and how it the murder was done); forgetting the name but the one where the love interests first meet on the road over a dead body; Behold Here’s Poison (Randall, Randall, Randall because . . . Randall). I liked some of the others as well. But then, for me, it was a major disappointment to grow up and realize my life wasn’t going to read like a Heyer novel.

      1. I love The Talisman Ring. That scene when Sarah pretends to swoon after getting the Runners to attack her was beautiful πŸ™‚

      2. The Heyer mystery where the love interests (Shirley and Frank Amberly) meet over a dead body is Why Shoot A Butler? I still love that book. Frank’s Aunt Marion is one of my all time favorite characters.

    4. @Katie,

      That ‘marrying your first cousin’ thing is apparently ok in England. Still is, from what I’ve been told. So if The Grand Sophy was icky because of that, I guess Mansfield Park was the same, eh? πŸ˜‰

      I have this problem (bibliamnesia) with any of the Harlequin Romance novels that I read in when I was in junior high, though they were so fascinating at the time (there isn’t much sex in them, so no, it wasn’t the sex scenes that kept me riveted). Talk about bland one-dimensional characters who have the most laughable names. I get the same disbelief as Jenny when I read these again.

      1. Yeah, the cousin marrying thing seems to pop up in lots of Brit lit. I just read Stewart’s The Gabriel Hounds and it was in that, too (although they were second cousins, so I was less weirded out). I’ve read The Grand Sophy a couple of times, and I’ve gotten past it. I just don’t think about it while I’m reading πŸ™‚

      2. It’s not the norm in the area (and class) I come from. If you’re reading historical stuff, remember that they’re talking about the upper class and their behaviours were to some extent ruled by the socially restricted pool they had to draw on for mates.

        Some of the historical romances remind me of the immigrant south Asian communities in Yorkshire – forced marriages, very rigid rules on potential partner’s permissible caste and area of India/ Pakistan they come from, cousins as mates preferred to keep money in the family. And then the resulting plethora of genetic disabilities arising as a result.

    5. I had exactly the same reaction to the first cousin thing the first time I read the Grand Sophy, but recently somebody was trying to explain to me that if first cousins do marry, they’re better off if the female partner descends from a male and the male descends from a female, since it breaks the mitochondrial DNA line as well as the Y chromosome line genetically.

      I don’t know if this is true — the person who was explaining this isn’t all that scientifically infallible, but it sounded like a good theory at least, and that was the pattern in Sophy. FWIW.

  2. I had a recent experience of this. My reading these days is heavily weighted with female authors. I decided to read some male authors and write a blogpost about them once in a while.
    I used to love Henry Miller. So I pulled Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn off the shelves and tried to reread them. What the hell was I thinking? I’ll tell you what I was thinking, this lucky bastard was in close contact with Anais Nin. That’s what I was thinking.
    For me his work was tainted with her. Once I read him for him – uh, yuck.

    1. Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking. When I read Jo’s column a while back I sent it round to my reader friends, and remember thinking the suck fairy was why I can’t read The Chronicles of Narnia any more, or Gene Stratton Porter’s Her Father’s Daughter. We change, grow up, whatever, and the books stay behind, unable to keep up with our growth.

    2. Wow! She completely nailed it. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, I read the Phantom Tollbooth as an _adult_ and never saw an allegory. And, of course, someone had to tell me about Narnia as well. πŸ˜€

      1. If you’re talking about the Christian symbolism in the Narnia books, I read them for the first time last year as an adult. A sixty-year-old adult, in fact, so I guess I’m working on my second childhood. Anyway, though I’m a contented born-again atheist, I wasn’t bothered by the Christian symbolism, which I didn’t find that intrusive. I’d decided to read the books after reading Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book — a wonderful book, by the way — where she tells how she loved the books at 8 or 10, then hated them at 14 when she was breaking away from the Church and felt she’d been tricked by the books. Now, as an adult, she says that Lewis mixed in a lot of symbolism from other traditions, and that the Christianity doesn’t dominate; having read the books, I agree. (As I recall, some conservative Christians have been bothered by the presence of that non-Christian symbolism; or maybe it was Tolkien, who wanted a more consistent world? Either way, consistency wasn’t Lewis’s aim.)

        There were other problems with the Narnia books, and Miller does a good job on them. It’s a great, compassionate, empathic book, which is why so many Christians complained that she was attacking Lewis.

        By the way, the Homophobia Fairy and the Suck Fairy need to get together. I have to admit that “suck” isn’t necessarily homophobic, but it still bugs me.

        1. My theory is that your reward for making sixty is that you get to be a kid again.
          At least, that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

    3. I wonder if the Suck Fairy also works for Hollywood which explains all the bad movies based on good books. I still like The Chronicles of Narnia, but the second movie was horrid.

    4. Very good – I knew in 85 comments someone had remembered Jo Walton and the Suck Fairy. To my surprise the kids have also had run-ins with the Suck Fairy. Which is what happens when you read a great deal from an early age, I guess.

  3. This is why I have several books on my “keeper” shelf that I’m afraid to read again — I look at their spines and remember the time in my life when I found them amazing and life-changing. Which means I’m done needing them to be life-changing, I guess.

  4. I’ve had this happen with books. The most specific on I can think of was SSGB. I read it when I was in early high school, and it was in a group of books someone gave to my husband. I grabbed it and eagerly started to re-read. Turns out, I’d remembered the book entirely differently.
    I think that it’s partly a memory problem, and, for me, partly because I used to read so fast, I might have lost some details in the way. I’ve always had good comprehension, but I used to really zoom through books. So much of my association of the book was about tone, and not necessarily about plot. I think, as in the case of SSGB, that I remember finding the premise interesting, and perhaps had thought about that for a long time, and all my ideas about the premise and other interesting things at the time became lumped into one, erroneous memory of the book itself.
    Happily, I’ve picked up books and been impressed by them all over in a new way as well. I remember sitting with my daughter and reading a Little House book with her, and looking at the writing and description on a whole new level.

      1. Me neither, but ah the wonders of Google. SSGB kept popping up as Sigma Six Green Belt certification. Not so much. “SSGB book”, however, takes me here: Len Deighton. A murder mystery set in Nazi Occupied Britain in the 1940s. Which sounds similar in premise to the chilling “Farthing” by Jo Walton, which brings us round full circle.

      2. Susan G got it. The title had a hyphen I didn’t remember, so it was SS-GB or Schutzstaffel – Great Britain. Len Deighten wrote it, and it was, now that I think about it, the first alternate history I’d ever read. I think that was as much of the appeal for me as anything. I’d never had a story based on the premise, “What if history had taken _this_ turn” before. And I was fairly educated about WWII for my age, so I think that was also part of why I remembered the book as being so good. I think I actually mentally thought about the premise so much, and thought about the way the world might have gone, that much of my “memory” of the book was actually things I’d put there on my own. πŸ™‚

        1. Oh, and the premise is what if the Nazi’s had won and then taken control of England.

    1. Yes, I got the Little House books out of the library a few years ago to read to my Mom. She had developed Alzheimer’s and couldn’t read any more and couldn’t follow anything complicated, but she had always loved biographies and autobiographies so I thought those might be perfect for her, as indeed they were. I was SO impressed. I read them as a child just for the story. This time through, while the story was still fascinating, I was even more fascinated by the information about pioneer life. I think Wilder must have had eidetic memory (I think that’s the word – like Marilu Henner); she remembered EVERYTHING and wrote about it so well.

      1. I could SWEAR I clicked on the “reply” for JulieB’s comment (she talks about Wilder), but I suppose it’s possible I clicked on the wrong “reply.” Oh well. I didn’t know what SSGB was either.

        1. I still found it RainyWeather. And, I agree about her memory. Apparently, Rose had quite a hand in the editing of the books as well.
          I love the imagery and detail, and have always had a fascination of life in her time. As an adult, I think I have a better appreciation of how much better I have things now though!

      2. You might like Sun in the Morning by M.M. Kaye (as well as the other two books of her autobiography). It’s about her childhood in British occupied India, and what I’ve read of it was quite interesting (I got sidetracked when it was due back to the library, and didn’t get around to finishing it). I think she also had a eidetic memory.

  5. I just reread a bit of Fletch (sooner or later Kindle is going to cut off my access to samples). I can’t say what you were thinking, but here is what I remember liking:

    The prose. It held up after all these years, and that is no small thing. I would have loved it even more in ’74, which is when I think I first read it. I was 21.

    Fletch. The irreverence is still appealing, although I now wince at his attitude toward women. But I was living with that attitude toward women in ’74 rather than looking back on it from ’12. Also, like a lot of females, I had cultivated an ability to read across the gender divide, there being a lot less choice at the time. Fletch was cool. I had not started to read romance, except the canonical 19th-century titles. I read science fiction as a kid, and the gender issues there were not particularly enlightened, either. Think Burroughs and Barsoom.

    Pace. It wastes no time getting off the mark.

    1. Yeah, he’d good with craft, although he wanders. I’d forgotten he was so heavy with dialogue, but it’s good dialogue.

    2. I remember Confess, Fletch better, but the dialogue, the way Fletch thinks, I enjoy that. I recently bought the third one at Half Price Books, so I’ll see how that works out…

  6. The book that I most recently took umbrage with was The Scarlett Letter. We read this when I was a Sophomore in H.S. and I didn’t really remember the book, but I do remember my teacher waxing eloquent about the symbolism in this book. So as an adult, I checked it out on CD and listened to it. O.M.G.! This book is so dumb. No person would stay put to “accept” their punishment the way Hester does. And that minister was such a sniveling jerk. And then there is the fact that Hester holds just as much over Chillingsworth as he does over her. Sure, the book may be full of symbolism, but from a plot perspective, it SUCKS! They should stop making students read this because it’s dumb.

    1. Well, given the time period it was set in and the time period it was written in, Hester wouldn’t have had a prayer. About the only thing she could do is lay low. There was a lot of wilderness between her and the next town, and unless the next town was Rhode Island, she wouldn’t have been any better off. Plus she had a baby.

      But yeah, I hate that book. It’s well-written, but it’s so horribly patriarchal about it’s idea of a Good Woman that I want to spit. What comforts me is that Hawthorne was livid about the women writers of the time because they sold so much better than he did. He called them “Damned scribbling women.” Heh.

    2. Ummm . . . in defense of Hawthorne (cause I love all that doom and gloom), I remember reading a critical interpretation of him that said Hawthorne’s stories reveal an anxiety about his abilities to live up what his wife might expect of him. In any case, consistently in his stories, the men let the women down. Hester is, I think, more than an ideal Good Woman of the time — she was too independent, too individualistic in her morality. I think she was her own good woman — and the rest of her world isn’t up to her snuff, certainly not either her husband or her lover. I think that is true in a number of Hawthorne’s work — the women are smart, courageous, passionate, and individualistic and the men are too shallow or too frightened or too bound in tradition to meet them equally. And therein the tragedy lies.

      1. Yes, but he also praises Hester for being a good submissive woman at the end, wearing her guilt, and–the sentence that I can least forgive him for–talks about how as Pearl grew up she learned restraint: “Not to do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.” You should have read my paper on The Scarlet Letter. I was ANNOYED.

        1. Oh gosh. Jenny and Annoyed and Scarlett Letter. There’s a paper I’d like to read.

    3. I ended up skipping over American Lit in high school when I jumped English classes, and never had to read this. Everyone else said they enjoyed it, now I’m really glad I didn’t have to deal with it.

  7. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Great at age 14. Not so great at even age 18.

    Most of Orson Scott Card’s stuff (at least earlier — I haven’t read him in at least 15 years now) hit me on my most adolescent emotional levels (being a late bloomer, I’m still adolescent emotionally sometimes). So they don’t hold up for me when I’m not into “poor little person who is forced into doing heinous things without knowing it by all-knowing, all-powerful parental-type institution”. No responsibility, lots of alienation and guilt and the kind of pain that teens can feel, revenge fantasies. Can’t do it anymore.

    Some books are for a certain time period. Some are for a particular age/mindstate. It makes me feel even more grateful for the stories from those time periods or for those age groups that are still universal feeling and still satisfy me and probably always will. (I love you, Tamora Pierce!)

    1. Mollie loved Tamora Pierce. She wasn’t a huge reader, but she devoured those books. She had her own copies. I think she still has them to pass down to her kids.

    2. I have to agree. I tried reading Ender’s Game again recently and realized I hated it! Ditto for the rest of his books. It’s just that whole ‘adults know better and it’s okay to wipe out cultures / species / people who aren’t just like us’ makes my skin crawl.

      1. I have to disagree about Enders Game, which I also read as an adult, sometime in my 50s. I liked it a lot, and I liked its three sequels just about as much. Haven’t read anything else by Card, however..

        I disagree very strongly that Ender is about “adults know better and it’s okay to wipe out cultures / species / people who aren’t just like us” — it rejects that mindset absolutely. (As such, it’s prescient about predator drones.) When Ender discovers what he has been manipulated into doing, he spends the rest of his life atoning. The book is an anti-Starship Troopers (there have been a number of them, but I think Ender’s Game is the best), and I believe that many readers hated the sequels because they missed that: they thought it was a Starship Troopers retread, and were disappointed when Ender didn’t go on to kill more bugs and blow up more planets.

  8. I loved Andre Norton. I still have a ton of her books. Her short stories have held up for me but I haven’t attempted the Witch World series yet. I think I’ll give it a try and let you know how it goes. Kind of like a canary in a coal mine. πŸ™‚

      1. Me too. I read everything of hers I could find when I was in my early-mid teens. She was part of what made me want to become a writer. I still have some on my shelves, but haven’t reread them for the same reason. On the other hand, Tamora Pierce holds up wonderfully. (Thank the goddess.)

        For me–it was Heinlein. I read him at about the same time I read Andre Norton, and tried to reread one years ago…turns out he was a sexist pig. Sigh.

        1. Yes, he was. He really really was. I read “Friday” and I think it’s in the first couple of chapters she is gang raped. With one of the men she kind of enjoys it. Later he admits he raped her because she was just so beautiful and sexy, and they get together at the end and raise a family. I guess that still pisses me off, 30 years later.

          1. I agree, but there’s a paradox about Heinlein. In his early work, he was actually a bit groundbreaking in his women characters. (There’s some discussion of that in the introduction to the first Women of Wonder anthology, I believe.) His women were smart, competent, and active, even though they were visualized as Vargas girls. They stood out in sf for their degree of development in the 40s and 50s. In his later work, it’s true, he became vile on a number of points, and I don’t think I’ve reread any of his post-1970 stuff. I still reread his pre-1970 work with pleasure, but critically. I think that what may be involved is that I started reading him in the early 60s, when I was about 12, so I got him at his best, in a different era. But his later work increasingly turned me off. He’s like Bob Dylan: I often wonder whether I’d have liked Dylan at all if I’d been born a decade later, and known him primarily by his work in the 70s. I think I’d have wondered why he was famous, or recorded at all. The same for Heinlein: if I knew him first by his post 1970 books, I don’t think I’d have been impressed, and I sympathize with people who know him for Friday, Job, The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, and other abominations.

            I loved Andre Norton too, began reading her at about 10 I think. I’ve been rereading some of her books recently, and what I remember as a quirky writing style doesn’t seem to be there anymore; mainly it’s the characters’ names. But when I reread The Stars Are Ours (I think) I was surprised at the gaps in my memory: some odd bits had stuck with me, like the mnemonic verses the protagonist invents, and I’d forgotten the plot and almost everything else about it.

  9. I’ve got the same attitude toward Fletch and Flynn as you do (loved them), but haven’t revisited them.

    I was particularly impressed with the Flynn involving counterfeit plates, because the end came out of left field but still made sense.

    Now I’m afraid to read Clarke’s “Childhood’s End,” because that really changed my worldview. Thirty years later, I’m much more pessimistic about humans and their capabilities.

  10. That’s why, Crusie, you’re the only stable link on our keeper shelves. Dear god, imagine the psychological breakdowns of kids who think Twilight is amazing now. (Maniacal laugh) Wait 20 years, THEN read it. Also, the 50 Shades Trilogy…Really??

      1. No, it’s true. I just finished re-reading What the Lady Wants and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first. πŸ™‚

    1. Haha, I have a friend who read Twilight a few years ago and loved it, now she looks at Bella and Edward’s relationship and sees it as horribly unhealthy. I loathe Bella, but to be fair, I’ve only seen the movies.

      1. She’s not any better in the books. In fact, I think she may be worse, because you get an in depth look at her angst that the movies just don’t show.

        1. I’ve always thought Bella needs serious therapy and a healthier inner view of herself. I cringe at the ‘Twi-mania’ that sweeps through every movie, because it’s always about Bella and how she needs to be with a guy in order to validate herself, and it never matters that the guys she wants to be with could cause everyone she knows to get killed.

          1. My first thought when I read Twilight was “I would have loved this when I was sixteen”. These days? My favourite summary of Twilight is: A young girl’s struggle to choose between necrophilia and bestiality.

    2. Well, you are on the keeper shelf, minimally. Last night I needed a hit of happy and remembered I was going to hook another coworker on your work, so I put Welcome to Temptation in the bag for work and started reading Agnes. I was going to lend Agnes too, but we have a coworker named Agnes and the person who is new to your work isn’t happy with our Agnes at the moment, so that one will wait.

  11. Like with much in life, I think this is one of those “it’s not you it’s me” things.

    This is no different than when we fall for a person and see only their best qualities at first. And with books/movies, I think this happens when we relate to or are attracted to specific stories and/or characters at a particular time in our lives. We fall in love because it touches something in us. And that’s our takeaway. At the time. Years later, the book/movie is still a constant but we’ve changed. Hopefully. And we have a different perspective.

    But this is a good thing. If we’re lucky, we can still appreciate it for what it meant to us at the time even though we don’t feel the same way anymore.

    As for Nancy Drew, I didn’t relate much but still loved the books because I liked the mysteries. That was my real takeaway. And it probably plays a role in why I write mysteries today. But I haven’t tried to reread the books and don’t plan to because I already got everything from them that I needed.

    And that’s what I love about books, they really are much more than words on paper and interactive beyond the minute when we read “the end” because they can have the power to live on with us and within us and have a real impact on our lives. I find that truly amazing.

    Thanks for bringing up the topic. Another good one.

  12. Kathleen Woodiwiss and GWTW. I was in total thrall to Shanna and Wolf and the Dove and the dreadful Rapey one with Brandon – Flame and the Flower. Then I didn’t read them for years and years, but when she died a few years ago, I tried rereading Shanna and OMG what a car crash. Same with GWTW, which was my Bible from age 13-15, and my parents confiscated it because I kept re-reading it over and over. Then the ‘sequel’ came out and I picked up the original and thought, meh. I think even when I read it I was a bit conscious of the racism, but when I was in my late 20s, I was horrified by the whole book and ended up not bothering with the sequel.

    I knew that all the Barbara Cartland books that we all read were sucky when I was reading them, but they were like crack and didn’t cost much from the school bookstore. I think there were about 40 in circulation in my boarding school, and we’d all read from them to see which bits she had reused, and laughed hysterically at all the …..pauses….where the heroine…..had to…..look…..up into the smoldering……eyes of the dude as he…..crushed her ferociously to him and …..

    I suspect the whole passion for 50 Shades is women who never had a Shanna/F&F in their lives and so are not necessarily aware that the book is prime Suck Fairy territory. I downloaded the sample chapters and felt able to pass.

    My re-reads…WTT is one of my all-time favorites, the pool scene is a thing of beauty even as I think about it, let alone re-read it, anything by Eva Ibbotson and I still get hooked by Heyer. Never liked the Grand Sophy, but I revisit three or four every year when feeling particularly blue/sinus-ridden. And then there’s Dunnett, re-reading is a project in itself.

    1. Oh YES!! Eva Ibbotson’s books both the YA and the more mature ones. I lovelovelove them, and return to them when life is stressful. I was just rereading Island of the Aunts. Love.

  13. I can look at my reading choices from each decade and see what was going on with me emotionally. It’s quite a revelation. : ) While I know a lot of what I read years ago would not stand the test of time, they were still fabulous. They got me through certain stages, they educated, comforted, and entertained.

    1. Yes. I like how you put that – “I can look at my reading choices from each decade and see what was going on with me emotionally.” That’s so true for me – sometimes I’m aware of it at the time and sometimes I’m not.

  14. In my teens and twenties: loved loved loved The Belgariad and The Mallorean series, by David Eddings.

    In my thirties: read them again and thought “you fool, what were you thinking. These are childish.”

    Now in my mid-forties, picked one up (they’re still in the house because my teenage sons like them) and could see why I’d loved them. Could still see the holes, and wished Eddings had thought a bit more deeply about certain things, but I’m quite happy to keep rereading.

  15. Oh, I used to read all kinds of stuff and loved so much of it. Then I decided to try writing fiction myself. I never got good at it, but I did learn a lot along the way, and now there’s a whole lot of fiction I just don’t enjoy any more. Now I see the bad exposition, the elaborate substitutions for “s/he said,” the crap that doesn’t advance the plot or demonstrate something about a character or even just be interesting for its own sake. I probably found most of these things vaguely dissatisfactory before, but now I know why they suck.

    Still, knowing a bit about writing helps me enjoy the good stuff even more, so there are trade-offs.

    Used to love, now can’t stand: Catherine Coulter, Diana Palmer, just to name two.

    1. “Then I decided to try writing fiction myself. I never got good at it, but I did learn a lot along the way, and now there’s a whole lot of fiction I just don’t enjoy any more.”
      Amen, Sister.

  16. I don’t usually have this as a problem with books, but I have run into this with television at times. For example, I did not grow up with cable and thus only saw Clarissa Explains It All very rarely, but thought it was adorable. Renting it on DVD as an “adult” though…I dunno, it just fell flat on me now. And while I loved My So-Called Life at the time it was out, I strongly suspect it would fall flat on me if I ever saw it again, so I don’t.

      1. I agree. I bought the DVD for my kid, and now every once in a while she’ll spontaneously break out into “Conjunction Junction.” I’m so proud! Plus I got to see a whole bunch of them I’d never seen before.

      2. I just started thinking of “ageless” as I was scrolling through. Perhaps a topic in the near future? Stories that we pick up again and see anew and like as well, or even more?
        And, at the risk of sounding like a student who wants an “A” (why yes, I did just give finals today, how did you know?) Crusies are on my keeper shelf as well. I’m much more selective about my keepers after hanging around with you and the Cherries, and trying to write myself. We make plenty of room for books in our house, but I’ve become a bit more ruthless with the ones I want taking up the space we have. πŸ™‚

    1. We tried to re-watch Moon Lighting. Don’t do it. The acting is so cheesy and over the top. We couldn’t even finish the pilot before we threw it back in the Netflix envelope and sent it back. Oddly enough however, Riptide was still good. They were so advanced technilogically for the time period the show was written in. A wireless computer using Satalites to bounce signals probably sounded crazy in the early 80’s.

  17. Not a particular book so much as half the romance genre. I used to be able to read any old badly written thing (Barbara Cartland,, and I just can’t any more. I find I like the Nero Wolfe books better now than I did 30 years ago, because I appreciate the writing style, instead of just reading for the plot. Though I have to say Archie is sort of crude in the first few – he had to hang around with Wolfe to become more suave apparently. I still love Heyer, I still love Dell Shannon (though again, have to jump over her gay bashing tendencies). I think the ones that hold up the best are books that have characters who are whole entities, not just plot devices. Someone who says witty things, does kind things, makes brave decisions, NOT someone the author tells us is witty, kind and brave. Which is why we love Jenny’s books, of course.

  18. You know I hadn’t really thought about this recently. We moved to this house now 20 yrs ago and all my books were boxed. This was a small house and we were only supposed to be here 5 yrs so not much made it up here. All my friends are in the down in the dungeon. I do know after getting a couple of Louis L’Amour’s short story collections for Christmas that I still like him.

    Mostly this hits at our house regarding TV shows. Want to torture your kids? Put ME TV on and make them watch “Batman” from the 60’s. However, M*A*S*H will always hold its own regardless of age.

    1. My daughter (12) loves the Adam West Batman. Also Bewitched and Hogan’s Heroes. I thought it was so great that she likes stuff that wouldn’t be unpleasant for me, but it turns out anything is annoying if played often enough. I swear I hear the Bewitched theme song in my dreams.

    2. My kids got a kick out of the camp of Batman; I think they were at the right age to see the outrageousness. But, we don’t see it very often, so there’s that. πŸ™‚
      M*A*S*H does still hold up, both the Henry Blakes and the Col. Potters.

      1. I loved watching the old Batman movie with my five year old son. Although I was laughing for different reasons to him – gotta love the shark repellant spray.

    3. My mom had me watching reruns of Remington Steele and Scarecrow and Mrs. King by the time I was 5 (and now I will always love Pierce Brosnan). Scarecrow was so steeped in the Cold War that it’s hilarious to see how dated it is now. I’m pretty sure my dad had to explain what the KGB was and why they were the bad guys when I was watching it πŸ™‚ I’ve seen Rockford reruns on occasion too, and damn did that show age well. I don’t know if it was James Garner or the writing or both, but I only remember how old it is when the ’70s fashion/hair is particularly egregious or someone uses a pay phone. Same with the Magnum episodes I’ve seen.

      1. The only thing I noticed was the slow pace and the long shots of cars driving down roads. Everything else holds up pretty well. Including Garner.

  19. Twenty years ago? Forget that. Try three years ago. I have books I loved with an all consuming passion three or four years ago and I look at them them now and think “I must have been brain dead”.

    Andre Norton, on the other hand, is still fabulous. I grew up with Andre Norton, literally. I would be a different person if I had never read her books, and now, forty years later, I can still read them and love them. Some books are just timeless. And you will notice – she wrote many of them in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but her heroines don’t wring their hands and wait to be rescued. So take heart, Jenny, I think you will still enjoy Andre Norton.

  20. Don’t reread Gone With the Wind. You will be horrified not to have seen a gazillion layers of racism in everything from dialect to attitude, and I mean stuff that even though I know it was representative of the time still horrifies me too much to tolerate. I was 14 the first time, 28 the second time, and none of it registered. But the next time I tried….


  21. Happens with movies, too. I loved Braveheart once upon a time; fifteen years later and it is the homophobic torture-porn of a misogynistic, anti-Semitic twatwaffle. Real Genius is still awesome, tho.

          1. AND, now that I’m remembering that movie, be sure to play the credits all the way through and listen to the very very end. Remarkable.
            It’s a beautiful score.

  22. Sometimes TV can rescue the essence of character and plot from some older books. My husband and I were enjoying watching the Lovejoy series (Ian McShane, enuff said) and so my husband picked up one of the books. He read just a little into it and said, “This guy’s a misogynist jerk. He just slapped a woman.” So much for reading the series!

    1. I loved the Lovejoy series too, and tried one of the books. I’m not sure where they came up with the character from the series (who is a charming rascal), but there is NOTHING charming about the books. Horrid.

    2. I enjoyed the first couple of Lovejoy books, and then Gash fell in love with his protagonist and they became unbearable. The antiques stuff is always good, though.

    3. Never got into Lovejoy, but I’m a huge fan of Midsomer Murders. And that’s a good instance of tv improving on the books. Not that the books were bad at all, but you had to read through a ton of backstory to get to the good part.

      1. I never read the books, but I devoured the series. The pilot is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen and so good. If you have Amazon Prime, the first seasons are free.

  23. Great thought provoking topic, Jenny.

    My favourite Heyer mysteries are Envious Casca and Duplicate Death, which I reread frequently (though the print is getting ever smaller and I may have to do something about that). The latter, however, has a few homophobic references. What can I say? It’s 1951, so I have to let it ride because I enjoy the book so much.

    Yup, like others, I was surprised to learn the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was a Christian allegory. Though it should have been obvious to me. And of course, by the last book, it was a flashing Jumbotron.

  24. Oh my, just got the “Update from Crusie’s Argh Ink” in my email – I LOVE discussions like this. Books, glorious books! I’m so delighted you like Heyer, Jenny, and I think somebody else mentioned her on this blog not too long ago. I started reading her as a teenager and I’ve gone through four or five copies of my favorites over the years. My library always contains copies of my favorite Heyers. A few of her books, especially some of the later ones (and all of the mysteries, never fell in love with those), just don’t resonate with me, but there are at least 20 of her books, long passages of which I can quote by heart, that still give me such tremendous pleasure. (One of the things that made me sure I would like Kozak’s “Dead” series is that Wollie is rereading SYLVESTER in the first book.) Actually, a few years ago I described you as a kind of modern-day Georgette Heyer when trying to convey the essence of your books to a friend. Yes, the description of Goldhanger in SOPHY makes me cringe, too, but I think you’re right that it’s a product of the time. My guess is it was so much a product of the time that Heyer didn’t even realize she was writing those scenes with prejudice. Does that make it better, if it’s unconscious? It does to me. I’d much rather have someone acting out of unconscious prejudice than deliberately choosing prejudiced beliefs. And the books are so upbeat and positive, with such a generous spirit; I really don’t believe Heyer was the kind of person who would consciously choose prejudice. The prejudice against “new-agers” that Peters displays in NIGHT TRAIN TO MEMPHIS (my very favorite Vicky Bliss) bothers me much more, because that’s obviously a thought-about and chosen belief. But I tell myself Peters must have had some bad experiences and, like you, just “skip over” that part. I’m not going to deny myself the pleasure of Vicky’s adventures because I don’t agree with everything Peters believes – just like I’m not going to deny myself the joy of classic old movies and some older books because of the sexism that was a product of those times. If I love the characters, the voice, the style, the repartee, I’m not going to deprive myself of all that pleasure because at that time they didn’t know any better.
    I realize I’m doing the opposite of what you asked – I’m talking about books that still hold up for me anywhere from 20-40 years later. I still thoroughly enjoy JANE EYRE, which I first loved as a teenager. And I have copies of all Edward Eager’s marvelous, marvelous children’s books which, dated though they may be, still delight me (and make me laugh).
    I did have a very similar experience with a movie, though. As a child and teenager I had a HUGE crush on Hayley Mills and my sister and I saw all her movies, including “The Moonspinners,” over and over (in those days, you could stay in the theater and watch the movie three or four times without being kicked out). A couple years ago I saw “The Moonspinners” in my TV program guide and joyfully settled down to watch it, only to turn it off before it was over, disillusioned and depressed. Still, that movie introduced me to Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels, which was a lovely result. They’re definitely dated now, in terms of women’s roles and a sexist view of relationships, but the women are nonetheless strong characters and the stories are fun, suspenseful, and romantic, with humor and lovely travel scenes. I reread NINE COACHES WAITING a few years ago and still had to read the last 100 pages or so at a stretch – the action gets SO exciting.
    I just typed this out after reading Jenny’s post in my email; I haven’t even gone to the Aargh site yet. I’m going to go there now and post this and then read what everyone else has said. I may have to come back and post again later, especially if/when I remember some books that haven’t held up for me. This is just my very favorite kind of book talk!

    1. Still love Diana Wynne Jones’ “Chrestomanci” books, too. Okay, I’ll be quiet now for a while.

      1. Have you read her YA novels too? I think she and Jenny are tied for most books on my keeper shelf.

    2. It’s interesting to reread Mary Stewart now. The sentence structure is very different from what we’re accustomed to reading now. I STILL love her books though.

    3. I loved Peters and Stewart and have nearly all their novels on my shelves. I should retread them. Actually I really want to start the Peabody series over before starting on the ones I have yet to read.

      1. Yes, by all means reread your Amelia Peabody books. I like those even better than the Vicky Bliss series – the first 12 Peabody books, that is. I felt they got better and better through the 12th book, which I thought might be the last one (though I wasn’t surprised when it wasn’t, having been fooled earlier in the series). However, after book 12 (Thunder In The Sky), I thought the series declined. The characters seemed to be changing in ways that didn’t ring true to me and that I didn’t like, though OF COURSE Peters has every right to do whatever she wishes with her characters. I tried the next three books and then decided I’d rather reread the original 12 than keep reading the new ones. Did anyone else feel this way? A number of new books have come out in the series and maybe they get better again – or maybe if I give book 13 another try, I’ll change my mind. Any opinions?
        Anyway, I’ll always be grateful for all the fun Peters has given me with the first 12 books of that series and the first five Bliss books.

        1. I also truly love Jaquline Kirby. Die for Love is a favorite.

          Has anyone listened to the audio versions? I did for the Vicky Blisses to catch up when a new one came out. They were well read.

          1. There are some excellent audio CDs of the Peabody books narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, who is just amazing. She manages to make the characters’ voices so different and so distinctive. She may have done some Kirby’s and I think she did some Vicky Bliss books as well – and then I think they switched to Kathleen Turner (I guess for the name recognition). I definitely like Kathleen Turner, but she doesn’t compare to Rosenblat as a reader. I believe she (Rosenblat) has done quite a few “books on tape” and I always look for her when I’m getting an audiobook. (Of course I’d rather be actually reading, but when I’m trying to motivate myself to do housework or some other boring task, it’s a big help to put an audiobook on. And if I’m going to be in and out of the room where the CD player is, it’s a big help if it’s a book I’ve already read – otherwise I’m constantly rewinding.)

          2. I’ve read many of the Peters books, and prefer Vicky Bliss to the Amelia Peabody books, but just LOVED Jacqueline Kirby, such a wonderfully snarky character. Some of her single titles were sill good being reread today, quite a number do have a problem with feeling “dated”.

        2. Actually, I liked the first half dozen or so Peabody books a lot, thought they went through a dull spot, then revved back up again as the Ramses/ Nefret relationship gained in tension.

          But everyone is going to resonate to different themes and types of situations.

          I think I’ve read every fiction book Peters/ Michaels ever wrote, many of them a dozen times or more, but there are a few that don’t get much re-reading.

          1. I got to a point with one of the Peabody books where I said – this is supposed to be funny to most people but it’s not for me. I had just passed a stressful time and I didn’t know if it was just me but I haven’t read one since and that was a looong time ago.

    4. Oh my gosh, Rainyweather. Are you me in disguise?

      I was going to mention The Moonspinners yesterday but decided I’d commented enough. But now I will, because that’s exactly what happened with me. I got halfway through watching the movie as an adult and said, “Nooooo, I’d rather remember it as a movie I absolutely adored as a child.” But I can reread Mary Stewart’s books again and again.

      And, huge Hayley Mills fan that I was, I still love watching The Parent Trap.

    5. I love Heyer, but disagree in re the prejudice. Reading her biographies I don’t get the impression of her as a warm, giving person. She was definitely a class snob, which shows in her books, in how she writes her middle and lower class characters. And as has been pointed out, Sophy was written after WWII when anti-Semitism was no longer an Unconscious Thing. I recently read a book written in 1946, and the author (Stella Gibbons) and her treatment of Jewish people / immigrants is much more sympathetic. Anti-semitism was still rampant in the 50s, so I don’t think this makes Heyer unique. But there was less excuse for it by the time she wrote GS.

  25. Well, our tastes do evolve, so that’s part of it. And I think some books go over better when you are in a particular mind set. There have been books I was meh about initially, but enjoyed much more later on. And I think, too, that it matters how long it’s been since you last read a book. If it’s been a long while, sometimes you just can’t get your head back into that place.

    It’s kind of like people, really. A little while back I heard from an old friend, someone who’s company I used to enjoy a lot but then we drifted. Suddenly I’m picking up on stuff I hadn’t really noticed before and wondering why. In hindsight, she hadn’t really changed, so I guess it’s my tolerance level that’s different. Maybe that’s true with books, as well? There are some that are ageless and some that we have to be in the right place to appreciate.

  26. BTW: I still love the old Nancy Drews because she did what she wanted and didn’t wait for a man to save her. Ned learned to deal with her helping herself out of difficulties and was always game for whatever scheme she had up her sleeve. πŸ™‚ I just wish I knew where those books went. I don’t remember seeing them when I went through the boxes last summer before the estate sale.

  27. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird and the movie. The movie was very faithful to the book; I think I could read it again. I’ve watched the movie numerous times.
    I used to read Susan Isaacs – Compromising Positions and Shining Through were both made into movies. The first movie was great, the latter was a dud. I’ve read other Susan Isaacs books since then – there was a sequel to Compromising Positions and I loved After All these years – where our middle aged heroine had a brief fling with her son’s friend. Not all of her books are as good but she’s still hitting some of them out of the park.

  28. I still love Georgette Heyer. When I read her, I’m not a 50*cough* something or other. I’m 15, and I’m reading at the cottage, and I’ve got 1 more day with the library book before my sister claims reading-rights.

  29. Oh wow, what a trip down memory lane. After reading this, I’m headed for the bookshelf for some rereading, and the book store for some of the books that others think have held up.

    I just finished a massive weeding out of the keeper shelves [they were threatening to overwhelm the house], and I really want to check out what’s left. May I recommend Karen Robards’ One Summer. Love that story, even though the ending got a bit woo woo…approaching deadline, maybe?

    And I have a delicate question that I’m asking out of real curiosity, no criticism of anyone implied: I don’t find cousin relationships squicky, and probably wouldn’t even get upset by brother/sister ones [no kids, please, tho]. I’m clearly out of step, but I don’t understand why are so many people squicked. ??? P.S. Not English, only child, no cousins, so this is all academic to me.

    1. Reading about it doesn’t bother me, although the idea of my own brother… ewwwwww. Maybe the people who are squicked have trouble separating their appreciation for a story from their personal feelings. We’re used to reading about murder and not feeling that enjoying the story is tantamount to wanting to commit murder, but I think that some readers might feel that enjoying an incestuous romance is equivalent to approving of real incest. (It’s funny to think that consensual incest is a bigger taboo than murder.)

      1. I agree. I’ve noticed a lot of talk about first-cousin marriage on the Intertoobz lately, because of the gay-marriage thing, and I’ve been amazed at the number of people who are totally squicked by first-cousin marriage. (I wonder how many of them noticed that Abraham and Sarah, in the Bible, are half-siblings.) I just never picked up the first-cousin taboo. First-cousin marriage is not only legal in most of Europe, it’s legal in many American states. What’s the big deal?

        One day a decade ago I was working in a computer lab on campus, and two young women college students were talking to each other about their love lives. One told the other how she met a guy her younger brother’s age (2 years younger than she is) who turned out to be a fourth cousin. “We’re religious and stuff”, so she considered this too close for them to get romantically involved. The other one told her to go for it: “Third cousins would be too close, second cousins would be too close, but I think this isn’t too close. … God musta
        wanted you guys to meet,” said the other. “You really think so?” said the first dubiously.

        (I’m sure about the accuracy of this account because I typed it all up while I was listening to them and sent it to myself as e-mail. All dialogue guaranteed overheard. But, you know, third cousins are too close? WTF?)

    2. I just requested Robards’ One Summer at my wonderful local library; thank you for the recommendation!
      As far as your curiosity re: people’s feelings about the cousin situation, I wasn’t bothered by it. I’m not British (though I am an anglophile), I’m the oldest of four, and I have three cousins. My oldest cousin is just a couple months older than I am, and the families used to joke about us being boyfriend and girlfriend (though that died out after a few years when the families moved far apart). I can actually remember asking my mother at one point if cousins could get married and she told me there used to be laws against it but weren’t any more, so I probably just believed from a young age that it was okay. If I had gotten the message as a child that cousins shouldn’t be romantically involved, then the book situation might well have bothered me. As it was, it never even occurred to me as a possible barrier between Sophy and Charles – I just enjoyed their interaction.

      1. Brother and sister definitely bugs me, but first cousins? No. I believe that those reactions may be affected by the extent to which cousins were reared together/ near each other and saw one another as being like siblings. In my case, all of my male cousins were a) younger, b) far away and c) weird, so seeing them in a romantic light was a non-issue, but this was obviously not the case with Charles and Sophy. Cousin marriages keep the money and the problematic relatives in the family!

        1. I agree. I definitely believe proximity at an earlier age may have some effect on relatives and their eventual ability to see the person as a sexual partner, and the closer the proximity (and perhaps the relative status), the less inclined a person will be – in general. I grew up quite a distance from my cousins, and when I was a teen remarked to a first cousin about the fact that a third cousin was kind of cute. I think my first cousin, who’d grown up in the same town, threw up a little in her mouth. πŸ˜€
          Also, I think people expect to read about a murder, but may not expect to read about a marrying cousins. It is ironic though. I think the US in general is much more accepting of violence in fiction, than sex.

      2. First cousins is so common in historical novels/tv series that I don’t even notice it.

        Interestingly, people who are reared near each other are less likely to have romantic feelings for each other. So there is some sort of biological mechanism to help us not fall in love with our siblings! So I think the *squick* there is quite natural.

    3. Part of it is that I tend heavily toward mystery/thrillers, and when there’s incest-related stories in those, it is usually of the non-consensual or unhealthy variety (see the In Death books, one of the Julia Grey mysteries, Christie’s Sleeping Murder) and so I have negative associations. Also at a certain point, I understand too much shared DNA causes problems (am I wrong here?) so I think of consequences. I don’t recall having issues with stories involving more distant relatives (e.g., Downton Abbey). And I like the Harper Connelly books, where the love interests had been step-siblings as teenagers. In fact, was very surprised to read reviews that had trouble with that. I’ve pretty much gotten past the cousin thing, so maybe it was partly surprise. Don’t think I’d be OK reading about brothers and sisters though (again, association from one of the In Death books).

    4. Getting back to Mary Stewart: in the The Gabriel Hounds, the H&H are not only first cousins, but respective children of identical twin brothers. Apparently in the US version, they are converted into something like third or fourth cousins.

      I was never bothered personally by the cousins thing, but I have to believe that others are.

      1. I’m confuded, wouldn’t that make them something like DNA half siblings? Or is that not how science works, I really don’t remember.

      2. The version I read has them as second cousins, where Charles was raised by her uncle after his parents died.

    5. Cousins wouldn’t bother me so much, but siblings would. With cousins, well royalty did it all the time and I think the concept is not so removed from contemporary times that we can’t accept it. With siblings, though, big squick factor. It might be partly societal taboo, but I don’t think that’s all of it. I think there are just some ideas that we are not wired to be accepting of, and incest is one of them.

  30. Andre Norton is timeless. I’ve reread The Witch World books so often I’ve lost count. The ones that kill me are the Dragonlance books. Great story, fabulous characters, horrible writing. Wanting to edit every other sentence makes it impossible to enjoy them as I once did.

  31. Mostly completely off topic, the first episode of Season 2 of Sherlock is available to view on (for those people still curious about Jenny’s column a few months back about Scandal in Belgravia. I’ve still only seen the first half of it (had to go to work). Though I don’t know how it will hold up over time (which puts me firmly on-topic! Yay!).

    1. Well, it follows under the sex and violence question above too. We ended up letting the 12 year old boy watch it, although I’d been a bit concerned after hearing some of the comments about it. But in our case, it was not a problem.
      And, as Mr. Husband pointed out, it’s better to see a naked woman who is happy, really, than a bunch of violence. Of course, I think he was just rather pleased to see Irene Adler in such a new… light. πŸ˜€

      1. Isn’t it amazing? I was afraid I’d over-hyped it when I sat down to watch it with Krissie and Lani, but when it was over, Krissie said, “Play it again,” so we watched it all over again.

  32. I didn’t like Emma at all, the first time I read it – I think I was too young, in my teens, to appreciate it. Some other authors (I shall not name names), I really liked 20 years ago, but I got to the place where it felt like they were trying too hard to Do Something Relevant, or the dialog clunkiness just became insurmountable.

    And I know that Jenny admires the extent to which SEP tortures her characters, but, while I love most of SEP’s books, I just can’t read the humiliations over again. There is a lot of humiliation in some of them.

    A lot of non-PC attitudes get a pass from me as being how everyone thought at the time. When I think how everyone around me when I was in junior high talked about gays and lesbians (and this was the ’70s, not the ’50s), I don’t think I can come down too hard on authors from that time or earlier for homophobia. Attitudes have changed a lot (although not, apparently, enough).

    I, too, remember liking Fletch, but I did NOT remember the sleeping with a 15-year-old hooker. Because that is just yucky.

    1. I love the SEPs I’ve read, but when I re-read, I tend to skip the humiliating parts. My favorites are Match Me if You Can and Natural Born Charmer, which have way less of the heroine hits the skids. It’s more that the heroine is in a tight spot. And then she gets out, and has fun, also love and sex.

  33. Probably we all can’t leave our way of thinking behind when we read a book or watch a movie. Which, of course, will change over the years. Recently, I made my husband read Pride&Prejudice, so after he finished it, we watched the movie – first the BBC version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, then the latest one with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen. What a difference in interpretation, starting from the costumes and settings up to dialogue and scene structure (and, of course, the BBC version was much longer so they didn’t have to leave out so much).

    Then, I remembered that there had been a different version in the Eighties, also a BBC adaptation (Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul). Amazon was able to provide it, so I bought and watched that too. While I had loved it then, it was just awful now – I could hardly bring myself to sit through the final love scene because I just hated the way they did it, including a terrible parasol which I just couldn’t believe Elizabeth Bennett would really have used.

    So I wonder… I suppose they’ll do another remake of P&P in the future since it’s such a classic, and how is that going to turn out? Will I like it more than the Knightley/MacFadyen one, and is it me or is it them?

    1. Have you seen the one with Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Sir Lawrence Olivier as Darcy? They take lots of liberties with the book, but it’s highly entertaining, IMO.

  34. Two words – Anne McCaffrey. I loved her in jr high – mostly the Pern books plus a few others. In college I picked up a Pern book I don’t think I’d read before (Dragonsdawn) and I was shocked, shocked and *outraged* at the sexism in the book (I was 20 and my consciousness was newly raised). I felt so betrayed – I remembered loving how strong her female characters were, so what was she doing writing about these simpering, manipulative women who only defined themselves in terms of men?

    When she died last year, I decided to re-read some of the Pern books, both to honor her memory and to see what I think of her in my 40s. I’ve read the first 6 Pern books. Some held up better than others, but most of them have traces of sexism. I think her attitudes about women and sex were probably ahead of her time, but are are behind our times. I just got Dragonsdawn from the library yesterday – I’m curious to see if I still hate it. And to see if I can even identify the things that made me so hulk-smash angry 20 yrs ago.

    1. Yep, I put myself in the protagonist as I read. I haven’t analysed if I do it just most of the time, or just frequently (I know I’m mentally in the story somewhere), but I know I do, and I know I did, especially in junior high. It makes sense that she would have been ahead of the time, and it also makes sense that you would have loved the books, because they took you to a new level of thinking and thinking about becoming who you’d be.

    2. After a certain point, I think her son was ghostwriting for her and then he became her defacto ‘co’ author for the last few books. That being said, I can’t really read any of the new stuff without being slightly horrified at the misogyny that pervades them.

    3. I’ve been wondering if I should reread these. I glommed them in college but worry they won’t hold up.

  35. Okay, just one more comment (yeah right):
    Trixie Belden. I love her as much as I did when I was 10 (and that warn’t yesterday, chicks). I happily reread her whenever I feel like a glut of nostalgia. Only, however, the first six books, by Julie Campbell. I never really liked the syndicate writers collectively known as Kathryn Kenny, and stopped at about book 13.

    1. Oh, I loved Trixie and the Bob Whites so much I just made the leap with the group writers. And, there were a couple of good ones after that; I learned about spelunking in Mystery of the Bob White cave, New York in The Mystery of the Blinking Eye, sailing on Cobbett’s Island, etc. I still remember the first part of the gypsy poem. πŸ™‚

      1. One of the first things Krissie and I bonded over was our mutual love for Those Verney Girls. I found an old copy of Night Train to Scotland which I adored as a kid; I’m afraid to read it now. Along with Veronica at Sadler’s Wells. But Green As Spring holds up beautifully. I swear that book had more influence on my writing style than any other. I must have read it a hundred times when I was a kid.

    2. I still love Trixie Belden. Although I could never figure out why the bad guys gravitated to Sleepyside-on-Hudson. Surely they’d learn to give it a wide berth after a while. A few years ago I came across a fantastic Trixie Belden fanfic set in her last year of highschool.

      1. I loved Trixie Belden. I remember being shocked that she went to bed one night without brushing her teeth, thinking “I don’t care if they rot out of my head.” And ever since then, if I ever go to bed without brushing, I think of Trixie. It’s all her fault, she told me it was okay.

        1. Hah! That one still jumps into my head too, as the teeth threaten to rot out. Plus all kinds of phrases she and her brothers would toss into conversation, though I don’t think I ever used “super-glamourous perfect”.

          A few years ago I was a hero to a young teenager who had stained her favourite shirt with berry juice, by telling her to stretch it over a bowl and pour boiling water through the stain. Just one of those things I picked up from reading Trixie.

          And I was in love with Regan. In fact, I think I still am.

          1. I did that berry trick too! But I never had the opportunity to such venom out of a snakebite.

  36. Victoria Holt. I read her as a teenager and loved the angst. Saw one in the library a few years ago and tried to read it and couldn’t even finish it.

  37. I’ve also been surprised re-reading romances from the 90s – again, it wasn’t that long ago, so were we really that different? I’m not talking the rapey, assholey ones (Whitney My Love, I’m looking at you), I’m talking the ones I loved because they weren’t like that. I reread Nora Robert’s Chesapeake Bay series this year and I was really surprised by how dated some of the h/h interactions seemed – and I think the first book was published in 1998. The series, especially the first two books, still works for me, but I was surprised by how the romance genre has changed in 15 yrs (without me really paying attention).

    1. I haven’t read Whitney, My Love. I went through a Judith McNaught streak one summer because my mom really likes her and I was out of school and bored, but I stopped before I hit that one. I did several of her books in the space of a couple weeks, and was so horrified by what she put her heroines through and appalled by the behavior of the men that at a certain point I couldn’t keep going. Once and Always enraged me almost beyond words. But I think the final straw was the sheer amount and flimsiness of the Big Misunderstandings in Every Breath You Take.

    2. Most romances are trivially easy to place by decade written, if not half decade. Yes, women’s rights and empowerment and expectations of fair and rational treatment really have advanced that far, that fast. And it shows up clearly in romance novels.

      Now that I think on it, it would make a great thesis topic – reverse engineering women’s rights from depictions in romance novels (contemp or historical both work!)

  38. Margery Allingham, first time round noticed the anti-Semitism, this time round it rose up, snarled and defeated the reading. And loved Bead Game and the Lawrence Durrell trilogy, now find too much that is sophomoric and silly.

    Great topic, thanks.

    1. See, Allingham doesn’t bother me – but then I only started reading her in the last few years. I can relax and enjoy the sense of period that she captures so well.

  39. Lord of the Rings. Although in all honest I have to admit I did not love them all that much, the characters didn’t seem to have much character. But a good friend raved about how well they reread so I decided it must be me and not the books. Nope. They were still blah 40 years later.

  40. I would have to say Piers Anthony. I totally loved his Xanth series when I was younger but I can’t read them nowadays (except for Dragon on a Pedestal … still love that one!). They’re a bit too silly.

    And I also need to add Alan Dean Foster. Reread a bunch of them recently and couldn’t believe that I’d loved them so much. They just didn’t have the same kick as when I was younger…

  41. I never noticed anti-Semitism in Margery Allingham, either. I think that I grade people on a sliding scale, comparing them to their contemporaries or (in the case of Georgette Heyer) the era in which they are set. We have not made as much progress as we should have (31 states have anti-marriage legislation or constitutional amendments), but a LOT has changed in the past 100 years. We’re not even to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. or the 60th anniversary of civil rights legislation. And people who were writing in the 1930s and into the ’50s were born before WWI. I really don’t think it’s fair to hold them to the same standard we have for contemporary people.

    I suspect many of them would be appalled by the way we treat the animals we raise for food, and that hasn’t reached much of a concern level in the population – most people still buy their meat from the industrial food system at the supermarket. It is good to include ever more types of organisms/ people in our circle of concern. Maybe some day we’ll even care enough to save something from extinction that is not cute and fuzzy.

    1. Yeah, but the Prez stood up yesterday, even if Joe Biden had to goose the process along first. I love Joe Biden. And as Barney Frank says, it’s inevitable now. The naysayers are on the wrong side of history.

  42. I loved Shogun by James Clavell. I enjoyed it so much scenes are still vivid in my memory. A couple of months ago, I tried reading it again and I couldn’t even get into the first chapter. Yeah, and I thought why!!! The only thing I could come up with was the the slow pace. Don’t hit me, but I tried reading the Shipping News three times (before the movie). I needed to figure out why I wasn’t enjoying the writing when everyone I knew loved it. It hit me one day, it was the metaphors. Every time I read one I was instantly flung out of the story and landed somewhere else, which happened a lot! Knowing my problem, I tried reading it again … can’t remember if I finished it or not. There’s another great writer I followed from the beginning of her series involving the same characters, but I can’t bring myself to read anymore. There’s often nothing new, no excitement, just the odd great line and that’s not enough, for me anyway.

  43. 132 comments and still going! I’ve added 10 books to my library request list since you started this, Jenny. What a great topic (though I realize it’s morphed a bit, as we’re not just doing “what was I thinking, now I hate it,” but also including “loved it then, still love it now!”) Speaking of which, I have to add one more to the “love it now” list: Elizabeth Marie Pope’s THE SHERWOOD RING. Read it first at age 13 and still reread it every five years or so. It may be the tiniest bit dated now, but it’s still utterly delightful. My siblings loved it too; my brother and I still write to each other in Peaceable’s secret code on occasion (no, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!). After I finished posting my (several) comments yesterday, I realized I’d forgotten Sherwood Ring, but (like my alter ego, Susan D), I was afraid I’d commented enough for one subject. But if she can be brave enough to add another comment, so can I! (By the way, Susan, still love Hayley – just don’t love that particular movie anymore.)

    1. Oh, I adore Elizabeth Marie Pope! Not just Sherwood Ring, but also The Perilous Gard. Which is less dated, because it takes place entirely in Tudor times, with no modern story line.

      Darn that woman for having an academic career (chair of English, I think, at Mills College, where one of my aunts and one of my grad school friends attended)! Two books was NOT enough.

    2. Okay, I’ve just ordered The Sherwood Ring from the library. 1958, eh? That in itself is now a historic period.

    3. I loved her two books! I found them in the 50 cent basket at the supermarket when I was about thirteen (still re-read them fairly regularly), and I thought I was the only person who’d ever read them – it’s nice to know I’m not.

  44. “Reading books in one’s youth is like looking at the moon through a crevice; reading books in middle-age is like looking at the moon in one’s courtyard; and reading books in one’s old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace. This is because the depth of the benefits of reading varies in proportion to the depth of one’s own experience.” Chang Chao.

    (-: Love that quote. There are so many books that I used to love, and I kind of worry that the ones I now love will be outgrown. OTOH, there are books I read when I was younger that I only grew to appreciate (Pride and Prejudice, for example).

    TV is totally like that, too. I was so worried when I asked for Mork and Mindy for my birthday last year, but it turned out just as charming (for me) the second time — maybe even more! The “he sits on his face!” joke wasn’t as funny, but some of the depth of the series was a lot more poignant . . . especially as an ex-at (-:. Nanoo, nanoo.

  45. Hm! I think I have an instinct for which books won’t hold up, so I don’t bother re-reading them. I lurved Judith Krantz when I was a teenager, and similar glitz novels. They were wonderful, but the genre is dated. (But will I watch the upcoming new miniseries of Scruples? Hells yeah!) But I’m also not a big re-reader, I prefer to always be trying something new. πŸ˜‰

    That Jo Walton article is excellent.

  46. The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the books when I was a kid. I made the mistake of rereading them in college where I felt bludgeoned by the Christian allegory. Sadly, I can’t unread that.

    1. I loved TLtW&tW when I was a kid. As an adult, it wasn’t the Christ allegoy, it was the collonialism. “See, foreign lands are not equipped to self rule, so we must send in proper Englishmen to rule successfully” even if those proper English men are boys and girls. The sheer arrogance of that, and the implied dismissiveness of the natives knowing their own best interests really horrify me to the point where I can no longer enjoy them.

  47. I agree that some books lose their appeal over time. Even Agatha Christie admitted that she liked some of her books better than others but went on to say that her public expected a new book from her every year before Christmas and that the fans did not consider that she had a life outside of writing.

    I, too, go thru my book shelves and discard books I no longer want to read. James Michener-I once found his huge, epic works fascinating-all that history told thru characters. Now they seem tedious. But to”visit” a book read years ago and discover you like the characters and action as much as you once did is a joy! G. Heyer, D. Sayers, E. Peters-their works are such that stand the test of time. I was recently able to introduce my sister-who only reads” good books”[her words, not mine] to your books, Jennie. I gave her Agnes and the Hit Man and told her that life was too short to not enjoy the best. Needless to say, she loved it and I gave her Welcome to Temptation last week. She smiled. That is what a book should give every one, don’t you think?

  48. Rosamund Pilcher. Is it non PC to mention her? I love her characters and places and the way they overlap in various novels. Also appreciate the lack of dead bodies in her stories.
    No one mentions the trans-gender work of Heyer’s These Old Shades. I still find that so amazing that she wrote that so early. Penhollow grabbed me by making me wish for pages that someone would off the old guy and then saw how he held the family nastiness in check. Even with dead bodies, Jennifer Cruisie is still my fave. o/

    1. I missed a step. Why is Rosamund Pilcher not PC? Not that it would matter here. We ran over PC here a long time ago.

    2. I really enjoy These Old Shades. I find the way she transferred characters from The Black Moth into a semi-sequel really interesting, especially since Tracy (aka Avon) was so much more fascinating than the hero in the earlier book.

  49. Jenny, it might just be me, but it looks like there is no way to respond to your question about a favor from anyone near Ohio State. I live in California, so wouldn’t be any help with that anyway, but I just automatically clicked on “Read more>>” and was taken to a page headed: “Not Found-Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.” There was no comment box. Again, might just be me (I’ve been having computer problems), but if you’re not getting responses, maybe there’s actually a problem with the blog.

    1. A good friend volunteered so I took it down.
      It was never meant to be a post. And of course, now I’m confusing everybody.

  50. Loved Helen MacInnis when I was a kid, and found my old copy of While Still We Live recently. Yep, still love it. Now, if I can just remember the title of an old Andre Norton that was one of my favorites, I’m going to hunt it up. I think it had North in the title.

  51. I love to retread. We moved all the time when I was a child and books were dear friends who could go along with me. Someone else shared a quote, so I thought I would share one of my favorites, it gives me chills because it so vividly captures our relationship with these stories:

    “There are books that are so alive that you are always afraid that while you weren’t reading the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?”
    — Marina Tsvetaera

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